Ramaphosa said he decided on Kieswetter based on Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s recommendation, following interviews conducted by a high-level panel at work since February.
He said Kieswetter emerged as the strongest candidate, based on his past experience as Sars deputy commissioner between 2004 and 2009 and his subsequent track record of transformative leadership and his experience of turning around a large institution.
“We have every confidence that Mr Kieswetter has the experience, integrity and skills required to turn Sars around by restoring revenue collection, redirecting operations toward innovation, developing future leaders for the organisation, and restoring Sars’ credibility and integrity,” Ramaphosa said.
Kieswetter returns to Sars after turmoil that saw the institution failing to meet its revenue targets.
He beat six other candidates in interviews that were led by former finance Minister Trevor Manuel, Judge Dennis Davis and Treasury deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat.
His biggest challenges, however, would include restoring the credibility of the organisation, re-establishing units that were closed under axed commissioner Tom Moyane and relations with organised business.
In February, the National Treasury projected a R15 billion shortfall in tax collection.
The Treasury said the shortfall had been revised down by R15.4bn to R42bn in 2018/19 compared to the R27.4bn that was forecast in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement.
It said the weak economy also led to a moderation in income tax received with lower output from the mining, quarrying and financial sectors.
Kieswetter has an extensive record in both the public and private sectors.
He was until 2016 the group chief executive of Alexander Forbes where he led a turnaround strategy that was aimed at restoring the financial services firm’s reputation and revenue performance.
He is largely credited with leading the listing of the firm on the JSE in 2014.
Kieswetter would be expected to strengthen the new illicit economy unit that was launched in August last year.
Illicit cigarettes and alcohol are believed to have cost the fiscus an estimated R7billion a year in revenue as a result of illicit cigarette producers.
During his maiden Budget speech in February, Mboweni said the government would introduce reforms that would include regularising value-added tax payments.
Mboweni alluded that the government would also focus on lower wage settlements and reduced bonuses that have put pressure on withholding taxes on earnings.
Kieswettter would take over from another old hand, Mark Kingon, who led Sars in an acting capacity after Ramaphosa accepted the recommendations from Judge Robert Nugent that Moyane should be fired as he had failed to show the character needed to lead Sars.
Kieswetter is expected to start his job in May.
Yesterday Mboweni said he expected Kieswetter to rebuild Sars.
“I expect him to act without fear or favour, to restore and defend the integrity of Sars and to uphold taxpayer rights when carrying out his duties as the commissioner, by implementing the recommendations of the Nugent Commission and restoring Sars to a world-class organisation,” Mboweni said.