This communication sets out the supervisory body responses of the Prudential Authority, the National Payment System Department, the Financial Surveillance Department of the South African Reserve Bank, as well as the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (jointly referred to as the Authorities) having consulted the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) regarding the Covid‑19 pandemic. This response focuses on the observed and possible impact of the pandemic on South African accountable institutions (AIs) which are supervised by the Authorities. It also relates to ensuring the compliance of AIs with their legislative obligations in terms of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, Act 38 of 2001 (the FIC Act).
The Authorities recognise that the Covid-19 pandemic may have an impact on the manner in which AIs operate, particularly in regard to their compliance with certain provisions of the FIC Act. The Authorities are also cognisant that the Covid-19 pandemic may present criminals with further opportunities to engage in illicit or unlawful activity.
This communication resonates with the statement published by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on 1 April 2020, which encourage governments to work with AIs and other businesses in support of Covid-19 aid and efforts to curtail the spread thereof, whilst remaining alert to new and emerging risks. The statement encouraged applying flexibility to the application of the FATF’s risk-based approach, and the fullest use of reliable digital customer on-boarding. Such an approach would accord well with the discretion and flexibility afforded to AIs as reflected in the customer due diligence obligations of the FIC Act.
The Authorities nevertheless expect that AIs continue to operate their businesses in a prudent and socially responsible manner in ensuring compliance with the FIC Act obligations. To this end, the communication further outlines some of the potential actions that can be taken by AIs to assist in achieving compliance with the FIC Act.
The Authorities implore AIs to act prudently whilst remaining cognisant of the role the financial sector plays within the broader South African economy, as well as their role in countering and mitigating money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing risk in this sector.
The Authorities may engage further with the affected AIs and all other relevant stakeholders during this time and may issue further communication or implement any additional measures as and when necessary as further analysis on the impact of Covid-19 is conducted.