Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed a new presiding officer to head the disciplinary inquiry against suspended SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane.
Ramaphosa has appointed Advocate Azhar Bham SC to head the inquiry.
The president had initially appointed retired Constitutional Court Judge Kate O’Regan to head the inquiry, but Moyane had raised objections to O’Regan’s fitness to preside over the inquiry as she was a board member of NGO Corruption Watch.
Moyane’s lawyer wrote to Ramaphosa and argued that Corruption Watch was one of the organisations that had long called for his removal from SARS, and as such it was impossible for O’Regan to provide him with a fair trial.
The Presidency said in a statement on Tuesday that Ramaphosa was still confident that O’Regan would have presided over the matter objectively, but he wanted to remove any questions of bias over the matter.
“While the president is certain that Judge O’Regan would have adjudicated the matter objectively and that her position did not present a conflict, he decided that it would nevertheless be important to remove any possible perception of bias. The president has thanked Judge O’Regan for availing herself for this public service,” said the Presidency.
O’Regan’s removal was one of a string of demands made by Moyane. He also requested that the terms of the inquiry be altered to permit for oral arguments, instead of the inquiry being paper-based.
The president refused this request.
Ramaphosa placed Moyane on suspension in March. In a meeting days before he was suspended, Ramaphosa had asked Moyane to resign and offered him a paid settlement - but he refused.
In placing him on suspension, Ramaphosa said it was in the best interest of SARS and protecting its integrity.
The suspended commissioner was then served with disciplinary charges and a notice that he will face a disciplinary inquiry into his conduct.
Moyane faces 12 charges that include; misconduct in violation of his duties and responsibilities in terms of the SARS Act, Finance Management Act and the SARS code of conduct.
Moyane, who is known as a close ally of former president Jacob Zuma, has been under pressure as he faced allegations for abusing processes at SARS to help the controversial Gupta family