Corruption Watch has made further submissions in Parliament on the draft Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) amendment bill.
We made our initial written submissions on the bill on 1 June 2015 and made oral submissions before the Standing Committee on Finance on 2 February 2016. Our concerns at that time centred primarily on lack of clarity around the definition of beneficial ownership and the definition of domestic and foreign prominent influential persons.
We were subsequently requested to file supplementary written submissions which were submitted on 12 February 2016. We also made comments in respect of the Issue paper on Guidance required to Implement the FIC Amendment Act on 26 September 2016.
Our latest submissions relate to section 45B(1C) which deals with warrantless searches in clause 32 of the bill. This is the section about which President Jacob Zuma has expressed reservations, and which has prompted him to refer the bill back to the National Assembly for reconsideration. Our view is that the president is challenging a section which is already constitutionally compliant, since the provisions laid down by the Constitutional Court have been incorporated directly into the bill. In fact, the introduction of section 45B(1D) further circumscribes inspectors’ powers and provides even more protection for those affected by warrantless searches.
We are concerned about this new delay, especially in light of the impending Financial Action Task Force (FATF) review in February 2017, as this review will regard South Africa’s failure to finalise the bill as being detrimental to our ability to effectively and efficiently deal with money laundering, terrorist financing and illicit financial flows more generally.
Hence, the delay seriously impacts on compliance with our own constitutional obligations and the realisation of FATF recommendations and has immense implications on South Africa’s ability to address financial crime and corruption.
We hope that our brief submissions on the constitutionality of section 45B(1C) will assist the committee in deciding whether or not to amend the section in light of the president’s concerns, and will result in the amended FIC act being signed into force as soon as possible.