File picture: Leon Nicholas.
Parliament Judge Robert Nugent has insisted that an inspector-general must be appointed to oversee the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and its commissioner to prevent the type of damage that was done under Tom Moyane.

This is despite some of the MPs preferring a different model on the oversight of Sars, including setting up a board that would assume overall responsibility of accountability to Parliament.

But Judge Nugent was sticking to his guns and not budging, saying to MPs that his recommendations to President Cyril Ramaphosa on the overhaul of Sars stand.

He also recommended a deputy commissioner or commissioners be appointed to prevent the commissioner from having too much power.

Judge Nugent was appearing before the standing committee on finance when he was asked about his report on Sars. But he said when Moyane took over in 2014, many key institutions were destroyed during that time.

“What occurred within months when Moyane arrived is that the executive committee is disbanded within weeks. That was the end of that oversight,” said Judge Nugent.

He said some of the key structures in Sars were dismantled which led to less collection and loss of billions of rand. In the past year, Sars had a R50 billion hole in its account.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni will outline on the collection of Sars for the current financial year when he delivers his maiden Budget speech on Wednesday.

However, it is expected there will be a R10bn tax hole for this fiscal period. But the judge said to ensure Sars was properly governed and there was no political interference, an inspector-general must be appointed to oversee it.

“The most important thing we recommended is that an independent body be established to have oversight. We recommend that an inspector-general be appointed.

“They have that in Australia, the US and many other countries. One must be careful of not setting up another empire. This must be a lean body. It should not itself become a bureaucratic organisation that will slow it down.”

If there had been an inspector-general, people aggrieved at Sars would have gone there to raise red flags about what was going on.

He said people at Sars who had complaints had nowhere to go and were stuck, but an inspector- general would be able to deal with problems.

Judge Nugent said the inspector-general would be able to attend to some of the issues raised about the conduct of Sars officials.

This would include officials not giving Parliament correct informa- tion.

He said his commission looked at the question of the board, but that idea was rejected and that was why they want the inspector-general.

Sunday Independent