The South African Revenue Service's IT infrastructure faces total collapse if it fails to finish its upgrading programme. File Photo: IOL

CAPE TOWN - The South African Revenue Service's (Sars) IT infrastructure faces total collapse if it fails to finish its upgrading programme. 

SARS acting group executive for IT strategy and architecture, Andre Rabie, told the Nugent Commission that the modernisation programme had stopped abruptly.

The upgrading programme stopped after suspended Sars commissioner, Tom Moyane, paid R200 million to the global consultancy firm Gartner to check and access Sars's IT system. 

Gartner is a respected research and advisory company. 

“We got word of this via a corporate communication and we basically stopped the process. There was basically no change control. It was a shock and it was not great for the moral‚” Rabie told the commission.

It should be noted that according to Rabie, the research firm only consulted him and his team by using questionnaires and some form of assessments that were in his opinion, not very detail orientated. 

“What suddenly started to happen is our support functions started to run autonomously and it was centralised. There was no consideration for the digitised specific requirements. Effectively‚ infrastructure is far behind. It’s pointing to the imminent collapse of the digital infrastructure at Sars‚” Rabie added.

R1 BILLION TO FIX SARS

Rabie told the commission that it may cost Sars close to R1 billion to fix Sars’ old IT systems. 

The IT expert said that Sars was functioning at about 20%-25% of its previous capacity and this is due to the halt in the modernisation programme, by Moyane.

“We are on a trajectory where failures will become the norm, which will have a huge impact on the tax and customs world,” said Rabie.

The e-filing tax system may potentially crash in the next two years unless urgent measures are undertaken to recall Barry Hore, who masterminded the IT system.

MOYANE ENDS THE PROJECT

Sue Burger, a senior project manager at Sars, yesterday, gave shocking details of Moyane’s decision to end the modernisation system and its impact on her unit. 

Burger said Moyane’s decision placed more than R66 million worth of projects at risk.

Three witnesses, including Burger, painted a worrying picture about how Moyane allegedly collapsed IT systems, customs enforcement measures and nearly scrapped the e-filing tax system - a few months after taking over.

Earlier the commission heard that the modernisation was introduced in Sars in 2007 when Gordhan was there.

Burger told the commission she was the Sars project manager for customs enforcement. She was the leader of a team of 12 people while others also had people working under them, she said.

Sars, at the beginning of each year, under the modernisation project, adopted an annual performance plan to improve revenue collection and to implement any new legislation introduced by the government, Burger said.

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