SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter. File photo: ANA/Oupa Mokoena
SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter. File photo: ANA/Oupa Mokoena

AI and big data: SARS takes step towards building modern revenue authority

By ANA Reporter Time of article published Feb 2, 2020

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Pretoria - The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has embarked on a programme and recruitment drive which will see its work increasingly "informed by data-driven insights, self-learning computers, artificial intelligence, and inter-connectivity of people and devices", the revenue collector said on Saturday.

SARS’s workforce would be "empowered to optimally function within this exciting changed and changing world of work", SARS said in a statement.

“We cannot ignore the power of a data and technology-enabled organisation, and the impact it will have on the future world of work," SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter said in the statement.

"We can, however, prepare for it by consciously and actively managing the interplay between human effort and artificial intelligence. Today we take a conscious step towards building a smart, modern SARS, with unquestionable integrity, that is trusted and admired,” he said.

The SARS of the future had to be able to respond to this new environment while fulfilling the organisation’s "higher purpose of enabling government to build a capable state that will ensure the well-being of all South Africans".

Since joining SARS in May last year, Kieswetter had constantly emphasised the need to boost the organisation’s technological capacity and derive insights from data for a "re-imagined SARS of the future".

He had also held extensive consultations with staff, which had redefined SARS’s strategic objectives. This had created a need for a high-level internal and external recruitment drive to attract highly talented professionals and executives to bring SARS up to speed with advances in big data and artificial intelligence in the tax and customs environment.

SARS’s strategic objectives included providing clarity and certainty on tax obligations, making it easier for taxpayers and traders to comply, detecting those who did not comply and making it hard and costly for them. SARS was also in the process of modernising its systems to provide digital and streamlined services and rebuild public trust and confidence in the tax and customs administration.

SARS had advertised strategic leadership positions to attract talented and passionate executives to fill the roles of, among others, chief data scientist, chief technology innovation officer, chief financial officer, chief procurement officer, director business segment: large and international taxpayers (formerly large business centre), director individual segment: wealthy and complex taxpayers, and nine regional directors, as well as a director: taxpayer engagement.

SARS was keen to grow and develop internal staff by recruiting candidates for some of these positions from within, but also wanted to use the opportunity to enrich the current “gene pool” with future-oriented skills and fresh perspectives.

“This recruitment process will reaffirm SARS’s commitment to the transformation agenda of our country and the advancement of employment equity and diversity in the workplace,” Kieswetter said.

African News Agency (ANA)

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