Experts are challenging the findings of a recently published report that said that between 2000 and 2014, some 67 per cent of the value of South Africa’s gold exports was lost through under-invoicing.

Now it emerges that the apparent data discrepancies on which that conclusion was based may not be due to under-invoicing of gold, but because the South African government does not report gold exports in a way that is standard elsewhere in the world

UNCTAD report
The report in question, Trade Misinvoicing in Primary Commodities in Developing Countries, has been quoted by several media channels (Trade-based Financial Crimes, 25 July 2016).

It is based on data from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Data challenge
But according to a blog posted by researcher on sustainable development, Maya Forstater, South Africa includes “gold exports in its domestic statistics, but due to ‘legacy rules’ it is treated ‘both as a good and as a country’ and reported under the special code ZN ‘Origin of Goods Unknown’.

“The South African Reserve Bank and South African Revenue Service (SARS) do not report details of where the nation’s gold exports go to…so therefore this data would not be retrievable from [UNCTAD data]. SARS is aiming to move to the more general system of reporting in the future”.