Sars acting commissioner Mark Kingdon testifies at the Nugent Commission of inquiry. Photo: Brenda Masilela/African News Agency (ANA)

PRETORIA – South African Revenue Service (Sars) acting commissioner Mark Kingon could not contain his emotions when he "unreservedly" apologised to the country for the failures of the tax collecting department.

Kingon told the Nugent Commission looking into tax administration and governance at Sars that the agency had fallen short of the high standards of performance it had always set itself.

"I would therefore unreservedly like to say sorry on behalf of the Sars leadership (to) tax payers, many stakeholders, including the president of the country, minister of finance as well as the deputy minister of finance, government as a whole, our former and current staff members and their families and the citizens of our country," he said.

His apology was followed by applause while he tried to compose himself.

"I'm just passionate about the organisation, forgive me," said Kingon.

The acting Sars commissioner began his testimony on Friday by acknowledging that the revenue entity remained in an undesirable position, and that he hoped it would never again find itself in the same situation.

Kingon was appointed to the acting position on 19 March  following the suspension of commissioner Tom Moyane.

Evidence before the Nugent Commission, which was set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa , shows that IT infrastructure at Sars has deteriorated through negligence over the past four years while the e-filing system is also likely to eventually collapse.

The commission has heard how Moyane introduced a new operating model on the advice of Bain and Company, with severe consequences as big companies and multinationals began failing to comply with their taxes.

This was followed by the increase in smuggled cigarettes, abalone and alcohol, as well as the illicit flow of money.

An interim report released on Tuesday, has revealed that retired judge Robert Nugent who is chairing the probe, recommended that Ramaphosa fire Moyane immediately.

Kingon said he was concerned about the overall health of the organisation and had sleepless nights worrying about how to fix the mess at Sars.

"Our executive leadership is broken and unstable, we need visionary leadership at this time and I don’t think we have visionary leadership to take this organisation forward," he said.

"An organisation with no vision dies.”

African News Agency (ANA)