BusinessTech

Parliament’s finance committee will host public hearings on the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment (FICA) bill on Wednesday to decide whether to proceed with a new clause which would allow for the financial auditing of high-profile individuals without a warrant.

While parliament had originally assented to the amendment in May 2016, President Jacob Zuma who must sign-off on any new Acts of parliament, had reportedly only sent it back to Parliamentin December. He cited concerns as to the legality of the “warrantless search clause” which could be considered an invasion of privacy and was therefore unconstitutional.

However, several groups will also use the discussion to address the bill’s validity as a whole according to a report on Tuesday by BusinessDay. The report said that the PPF’s pro-Gupta lobbyist, Mzwanele Manyi, will urge the committee to open the discussion to other aspects of the bill, which is aimed at strengthening the monitoring by banks and other accountable institutions of politically exposed persons and their suspicious and unusual transactions.

This is in sharp contrast to two big proponents of the bill, the National Treasury and Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) who have urged President Zuma to sign it into law, dismissing objections leveled against it as unfounded.

Speaking in parliament, the National Treasury argued that the current amendment was implemented to safeguard South Africa’s international standing and the integrity of its banking system. In addition the BLSA believed that “none of the objections raised are well-founded in law or policy”, highlighting that other Acts already allowed for warrantless searches.

“Further, the powers to be given to the FIC in respect of warrantless searches extend only to accountable institutions as defined in the FIC Act and do not extend to private individuals. This demonstrates that the clause is not overly broad”, the organisation said.

Eight oral presentations are scheduled to be heard by the Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF), the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), the Black Business Council, the Banking Association of Southern Africa, Corruption Watch and the Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals (Absip), as to why the bill should or should not go through in its current state.

The discussions surrounding the bill will occur with another prominent legal battle taking place in the background. The Gupta family began its proceedings against finance minister Pravin Gordhan this past week for allegedly targeting their businesses by exposing a host of transactions involving them that were flagged by the Financial Intelligence Centre as suspicious.