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Sars IT head apologises for 'conduct, posture, and demeanour'

Published Oct 20, 2018


Johannesburg - South Africa Revenue Service (Sars) digital information systems and technology chief officer Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane on Saturday apologised for her "conduct, posture, and demeanour" during an SABC TV Morning Live interview and appearance before the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into tax administration and governance at Sars.

"I took time to do a deep personal reflection following my interview on Morning Live and subsequent appearance before the Nugent Commission on Wednesday," she said in a statement.

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"My conduct, posture, and demeanour during both the Morning Live interview and Nugent Commission may have given an impression of arrogance, nonchalance, and unprofessionalism, and brought my competence and expertise into question," she said.

"This is unfortunate and regrettable. For this, I take full responsibility. I apologise to everyone who was disappointed or offended by how I handled both situations. There is no excuse or justification for this.

"I apologise unreservedly for letting so many people down and for appearing to have fallen short of the highest standards of professionalism and competence that my colleagues and peers have come to know me," Makhekhe-Mokhuane said.

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On Wednesday, the Nugent Commission was left confused after Makhekhe-Mokhuane failed to give coherent answers to questions about Sars's crumbling IT infrastructure.

During questioning by one of retired judge Robert Nugent's assistants Vuyo Kahla about what the revenue service was doing to maintain the ageing infrastructure, Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane gave a vague answer.

"Currently we are building, we have not build capability to build new solutions so we are maintaining what we have," Makhekhe-Mokhuane said.

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Kahla sought clarity about whether they were currently maintaining the infrastructure. Makhekhe-Mokhuane replied "within a built space".

When asked what she meant in her submission when she referred to the long tenure of Sars employees, Makhekhe-Mokhuane spoke about the Drakensburg Boy's Choir and when it was formed.

"Drakensberg Boys Choir was established in 1867 and in 2018 girls are still not allowed to sing." The comment was met with puzzlement, and she then abandoned the analogy.

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The commission also heard that during her time at Sars, out of 14 meetings she attended only four. She refuted the claims as "classified rubbish". Nugent, offered for her to inspect the records which were provided to the commission. Makhekhe-Mokhuane responded saying, "I have a very rare eye disease, but let's try."

She raised issues about her signature not being on the minutes. Nugent said the issue was not whether they have her signature, but whether they were accurate. Makhekhe-Mokhuane lashed out at Nugent and said she does not report to him.

"I report to the commissioner as I put it on record. I'm not going to sit here and discuss whether I attended meetings because as and when I get assignments I get them from the commissioner," she said.

"In my understanding of your terms of reference is to look at the governance, but not what I do as a chief officer including when I go to the bathroom. With due respect sir, please protect me."

As she continued, Makhekhe-Mokhuane spoke about financial problems which prevented Sars from executing its mandate. She said there were budget cuts which led to the inability to service the ageing infrastructure. In March the unit required R388 million, but only received R88 million, but in some instances, she kept saying R80 million. She said this led to the digital and IT divisions not functioning to their full capacity.

She was told that the National Treasury gave Sars R270 million and was asked what had been done with the funds. Makhekhe-Mokhuane said nothing had been done and claimed that they had a meeting on Thursday to determine what was going to be done.

On Tuesday, an interim report by Nugent was released where he recommended that President Cyril Ramaphosa fire suspended Sars commissioner Tom Moyane immediately.

“We stress that the replacement of Mr Moyane is not a panacea, but only the first necessary measure without which there is no possibility of rectifying the damage that has been done to Sars and any further recommendations will be fruitless...” the report said.

African News Agency/ANA

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