News24 today published the recording of a telephone call during which suspended Sars boss Tom Moyane instructs an employee of the service to feign illness to avoid speaking to investigators with auditing firm KPMG.
The 2015 conversation is at the centre of one of the charges against Moyane in his upcoming disciplinary inquiry — detailed by former finance minister and current Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan in an affidavit last week.
In the recording, Moyane can be heard telling the employee, Helgard Lombard, that if he is contacted by KPMG, he must say he is ill.
"Let's deal with the KPMG thing," Moyane says.
"Let's deal with it; you are not going," he adds, to which Lombard responds: "Okay."
"You are not going to them. Luther [Lebelo, human resource manager at Sars] is going to tell them you are not well," Moyane continues.
"Ja, you are not well."
A brief conversation follows, in which Moyane instructs Lombard not to come to work, and to stay home and calm down. He also tells Lombard he is "behind" him.
Moyane also thanks Lombard for revealing information to him the previous day — but it is not clear what Lombard told Moyane.
"Just say: 'I am not well'... if they do call you from KPMG, say: 'I am not well,'" Moyane says, shortly before the call ends.
Listen to the unedited call between Moyane and Lombard here:
Lombard was scheduled to meet with KPMG later that same day — May 7 2015 — but never did. It was not immediately clear what Lombard was expected to reveal to the firm.
KPMG was appointed by Moyane to investigate allegations of a "rogue" unit within Sars, that allegedly conducted covert intelligence gathering operations unlawfully — including allegedly bugging Jacob Zuma's Forest Town home.
The allegations have largely been disproved, and KPMG has since withdrawn the findings and recommendations in the report — and furthermore paid back the R23-million it was paid to compile it.
Longstanding allegations of interference in the KPMG report have come in the form of a memo drafted by attorneys representing Sars, suggesting that certain findings and recommendations be added to the report.
These found their way into the report verbatim.
In support of the recording, News24 has obtained a supplementary affidavit dated March 21 2018 filed by Lombard in an unrelated matter — the "Project Sunday Evenings" case that was before court on Monday.
That case deals with three former Sars officials accused of illegally bugging the National Prosecuting Authority's head office in 2007.
In his affidavit, Lombard states he informed Moyane on May 6 that he had to avail himself to KPMG for an interview the following day. He called Moyane the next morning as requested by the commissioner.
"It was in this conversation that Mr Moyane instructed me not to avail myself for the said interview and to pretend that I was ill. I obeyed the said instruction," Lombard's affidavit reads.
"I never testified before the KPMG commission [sic]. I want to emphasise the fact that I was not ill and was able to testify if necessary."
Lombard goes a step further and states the recording was in his possession under lock and key at all times and attached a transcript thereof.
The existence of the transcript was first reported by Daily Maverick.
President Cyril Ramaphosa suspended Moyane earlier this year, and he is determined to drag Moyaneto a disciplinary inquiry to ventilate the accusations against the suspended commissioner.
Gordhan's affidavit in support of the charges, filed with advocate Azhar Bham, who is heading the disciplinary inquiry, claims the instructions by Moyane to Lombard constituted an abuse of the office of the Sars commissioner.
"By instructing Mr Lombard not to attend the interview, Mr Moyane ensured that information relevant to the investigation was withheld," Gordhan states.
Moyane's actions also violated the Sars code of conduct, Gordhan argues.
The suspended commissioner is further charged with grossly mishandling an FIC report on his second-in-charge at Sars, Jonas Makwakwa, unauthorised bonus payments to Sars managers, and misleading Parliament.
Moyane's attorney, Eric Mabuza, told News24 on Thursday morning that Moyane is on record denying all charges against him without fail, "...including any recordings generated by the rogue unit and its founders who currently serve in government," Mabuza said, in an apparent reference to Gordhan.
"His denial covers all the allegations which have been written by Minister Gordhan last week and predictably leaked to embedded journalists even before his lawyers were served with the minister's affidavit. It also covers this latest alleged recording which seemingly contains the big 'revelation' that an employee had earlier reported himself to be sick to his boss and was having some kind of a follow-up conversation."
"If this is the kind of nonsense for which the commissioner was suspended, thereby threatening the entire economy of South Africa, all we can say is our own country needs serious prayer," Mabuza alleged.
Lombard meanwhile claimed he was prohibited from speaking to the media, as matters were before the courts.