PRETORIA - A senior SA Revenue Service (Sars) official on Friday narrated to a commission of inquiry into tax administration and governance how his relationship soured with suspended commissioner Tom Moyane.
Hlengani Mathebula, who was responsible for enforcement at the Sars, was testifying at the Nugent Commission of Inquiry.
"Shortly after joining [Sars], in or around March 2016, I was appointed to act in the role of a chief officer: enforcement. This I did till June 2017. The functions in this portfolio included investigative audits, debt management, criminal investigations, compliance audit, excise and business support," Mathebula testified before the inquiry, chaired by retired judge Robert Nugent in Pretoria.
"My working relationship with the commissioner Moyane started off the same way as most working relationships between an employee and employer starts - cordial, full of enthusiasm, optimism, goodwill and determination to work together for the betterment of SARS and the country. However, in and around May 2016, hardly four months in the job, various developments ensued which soured the relationship between myself and the commissioner."
Mathebula said at times he expressed different opinions to that of Moyane, and other Sars executives "which was seen as opposition, and in some instances even betrayal". He said various investigations were instituted against him, and subsequently his portfolio was broken down.
"My refusal to carry out instructions that I deemed to be against policies and my conscience was seen by the commissioner as being non-committal. As a result, I found myself having to constantly explain and to pledge my commitment to serve the institution," said Mathebula.
He said one day, Moyane called him into his office and gave him a list of staffers that should either be dismissed or suspended.
"In the list, there was at least the name of one person I was familiar with, I had interacted with and I believed in this person's integrity. At first I was shocked that I had been given this list. I then asked for time to consider what the commissioner had requested of me. A day or so, I came back and asked the commissioner where he got the list. He had refused to give me the [written] list but asked that I should write down. I asked him what would be the major reason why I should suspend or investigate these people. He said because they were part and parcel of the rogue unit," Mathebula said.
"I had read that stuff [of the Sars rogue unit], and I had no evidence. I wasn't comfortable to investigate people without information but by simply being given the names. I asked where he got the information, and he said Mr Makwakwa [Sars former chief operations officer Jonas Makwakwa] had given him the names while they were together in New York. I said I was uncomfortable with that. I said if, in the course of my work as the acting head of enforcement, I discover information that leads me to say these people are involved in activities that require investigation, I would do so."
Mathebula said at another stage, Moyane gave him a list of people to appoint, without following procedure.
"It was the positions of a senior manager and an executive. I thought it was difficult to do so without following process. I suggested that we had to advertise the roles, and allow other people to apply. I had discomfort around the process. The commissioner was unhappy about that," said Mathebula.
President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed retired judge Nugent in June to chair the commission to probe allegations of financial misconduct at Sars, including that it led to a revenue collection shortfall of R50 billion between 2014 and 2018 under Moyane.
Ramaphosa suspended Moyane following a breakdown of trust in his running of the vital organisation.
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African News Agency (ANA)