Senior Sars executive responsible for employee relations, Luther Lebelo battled to prove to the Nugent Commisssion he had no role to play in the disciplinary charges against former Sars deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency/ANA

It seems the Nugent commission of inquiry to probe tax administration and governance at Sars faces an uphill battle in its quest to have those alleged to have aided and abetted suspended commissioner Tom Moyane at the revenue collection agency shed light on a battery of charges of malfeasance.

Largely regarded as Moyane’s hatchet man, senior executive responsible for employee relations Luther Lebelo failed to assist the commission get a grip on the rot at Sars while Moyane was at the helm.

The commission, established by President Cyril Ramaphosa, is tasked with looking at a range of illegal practices during Moyane’s four-year term until his suspension in March this year.

Lebelo either forgot or had no recollection of transactions or actions where he was often directly involved.

“I don’t know.” Lebelo said this many times during his testimony on Thursday.

He was on the stand from the opening of proceedings until he complained of fatigue later in the afternoon.

Moyane had been in the habit of seeking legal opinion, Judge Robert Nugent and his three assessors heard.

In an invoice dated May 31, 2017, for opinion on powers of the commissioner, where Lebelo is referenced, he processed payment even when it appeared to him that this was purely a personal matter of Moyane.

The invoice related to two jobs, one of which was an instruction for the lawyers to read the book The Maputo Connection, in which there were allegations against the commissioner.

These were about Moyane, before he was head of Sars.

Lebelo told the commission that “the commissioner can call the lawyers and say give me an opinion on this or that. Once they tell us that the work has been done, we continue with the payment. We don’t interrogate. Ours is to ascertain if the work is done.”

The commission begged to know, to no avail, if this aspect of the invoice related to an employee relations matter.

Lebelo said: “The biggest verification is whether the work was done. If the commissioner says we must pay from our budget, we do. A lot of them were done like that. They affected our budget.

“As much as we respected what they do, as much as we respected the powers they have.”

He said there used to be a grey area. There was no clarity on who paid what from which budget. There was now a new system which was centralised.

“It will solve all these problems,” Lebelo said.

The Sunday Independent