Former staff members at Sars have testified about an environment of mistrust at the agency under suspended Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane’s leadership. Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency/ANA

Johannesburg - Former staff members at the SA Revenue Service (Sars) have testified about an environment of mistrust and exclusion at the agency under suspended Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane’s leadership.

The commission of inquiry into tax administration at Sars began its second day on Tuesday with interviews of former and current employees at the agency.

The interviewees painted a grim picture of how staff members operated under a climate of fear as various incidents and changes at the agency pointed to a change in culture at Sars.

The commission, which is chaired by retired Judge Robert Nugent was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to investigate the issues of tax governance at the agency.

Sars has faced a massive exodus of senior staffers over the past couple of years and the reason for this has been blamed on Moyane’s leadership style.

Thebeletso Seremane, who worked on Sars’ code of conduct, said she and a number of employees were demoted during the restructuring at the agency.

“There were probably 40 some employees, some even at group level, not doing anything. Is that not wasteful expenditure? I wrote to Hlogwane and asked him to give me some work to do and they did not respond to my letter,” she said.

Seremane was eventually dismissed from her job.

“I was dismissed with immediate effect. I had a scheduled meeting where I was to do a presentation. I was told that the downgrading of my post is the prerogative of the commissioner. Even if it’s his prerogative, it has to happen to rationally. There must be facts. You cannot say that you are downgrading the post irrationally,” said Seremane.

Seremane also told the inquiry that individuals that were not qualified for the positions were promoted at random.

She highlighted the promotion of Kelly-Anne Elskie, who had been named as the girlfriend of former Sars executive Jonas Makwakwa.

Former Sars officials Sunita Manik and Barry Hore also testified how various changes to the functions of the agency were irrationally disbanded with no explanation.

Staffers also testified that cameras were installed in various parts of the building with trees being removed to make space for equipment that was said to be recording people’s conversations.

Some said they had to place sellotape on their computer cameras just to make sure they were not spied on.

Former Sars Commissioner Pravin Gordhan testified on the first day of the inquiry. 

Gordhan and Moyane had a strained relationship largely due to issues of over the governance at Sars. 

The inquiry continues.

Political Bureau