DETERMINING the truth in the establishment of an intelligence unit, National Research Group (NRG) now referred to as the Rogue Unit – a term coined by the Sunday Times’ investigation into the unit and which the newspaper later retracted as false – has been difficult.
The SARS officials, Johann van Loggerenberg and Ivan Pillay, at the centre of the establishment of the unit have always contended it was lawful having been approved by the then Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel. The Public Protector’s report into the unit confirms Pillay confessed to the existence of the unit. The PP’s report reads: “It is common cause that SARS had a unit that dealt with investigating and collecting information in respect of compliance….This was confirmed by former SARS Commissioner, Ivan Pillay”.
The PP continues: “The issue for my determination is whether SARS established an intelligence unit in violation of the relevant legal prescripts”.
Attached is the letter of approval by Manuel on 22 February 2007 Manuel Approval letter which shows that he approved a request to “fund the creation of a special capability in NIA to support SARS”.
“The special capability within NIA would supply SARS and law enforcement with the necessary information to address the illicit economy.
“Collecting tactical intelligence invariably means intercepting and penetrating organised crime syndicates…..”
Although Manuel approves the creation of the unit which would require increasing the budget of NIA by R48.9 million for personnel over a period of 3 years, the Deputy Minister writes a note on the approval letter: “supported, however this is a strange way of executing what I consider to be an economic mandate of NIA. It seems it’s an add on rather than NIA’s mandate”.
The KPMG report into the SARS intelligence unit stated that the NIA and SARS entered into an agreement in 2002 for NIA to undertake the role of intelligence gathering on behalf of SARS but this relationship fell through and SARS continued to establish its own capabilities.