JOHANNESBURG, An opposition Member of Parliament, Mkhuleko Hlengwa, says the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Act (FICA Act) will play a critical role in dealing with an economy which is technical recession because one of the reasons the South African economy is not growing is the loss of billions of rand through corruption and money laundering.

Hlengwa of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), who is a member of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance, said Sunday: “The passage of the FICA Bill through Parliament and its being signed into law (in April) is a welcome move and puts South Africa in good standing in arresting the rapid decline of our economy as we are in a recession now — a technical recession — and the (recent debt rating) downgrades and so on.

“So we need a practical demonstration of seriousness that we are going to turn things around. Of course there will be trial and error moving along and the inconveniences that ordinary South African may experience should be expected, but we must then speedily resolve them and ensure that we target the people who are in positions of influence and not to affect the ordinary man in the street.”

Another opposition member of the Parliamentary Committtee, United Democratic Movement (UDM) Chief whip Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, said parliamentarians needed to ensure that the implementation of the FICA Amendment Act is not abused. He said concerns that banks may have been given too much power should not be ignored. Currently banks can unilaterally close the accounts of individuals.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has gazetted the implementation of the Act whose aim is to fight financial crimes such as money laundering and tax evasion.

Kwankwa elaborates: “None of us can dispute the importance of having FICA laws in order to fight money laundering in general. And I think what is important here is that when people are complaining about the powers that we may have given to the banks or financial institutions in so far as that FICA law is concerned, I think there is reason for us as lawmakers to sit down and consider whether we have not made a mistake here and there. Consider those issues and map a way forward that takes a more balanced approach so that banks do not unnecessarily and willy nilly abuse their power.”