THE BLOG
20/03/2018 13:32 SAST | Updated 20/03/2018 13:48 SAST

Sars Gutted: How Tom Moyane Was Left To Run Amok

Adrian Lackay, then Sars' respected spokesperson, sent a detailed memorandum about Tom Moyane's gutting of the taxman to Parliament in early 2015. It sank without trace.

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Adrian Lackay, the former Sars spokesperson who was ignored when he flagged Tom Moyane's disemboweling of Sars.

COMMENT

In February 2015 Adrian Lackay, the long-serving spokesperson of the South African Revenue Service (Sars) resigned.

He had been spokesperson for South Africa's premier state institution under two commissioners, Pravin Gordhan and Oupa Magashula, but could not stand to work in the environment created by the third, Tom Moyane. His resignation followed in the wake of the mass suspension of the Sars executive in October, a series of resignations of senior Sars people in the intervening months, and the commencement of wholesale organisational restructuring.

Moyane disbanded Sars' enforcement units – including the High-Risk Investigations Unit (HRIU); the so-called "rogue unit" – he suspended Ivan Pillay, the deputy commissioner, he suspended Johann van Loggerenberg, group executive for tax and customs enforcement and investigations, and he suspended Pete Richer, group executive for strategic planning and risk.

Sars' reputation had been soiled by a series of damning, albeit untrue, reports in the Sunday Times, and Moyane had refused any and all efforts by Lackay to attempt to set the record straight.

Shortly after then-president Jacob Zuma appointed Moyane, he had vacated the commissioner's office and moved to another building, making it almost impossible for Lackay to see his boss readily. There, behind closed doors, behind a series of security barriers and bodyguards, Moyane set up shop and started to disembowel Sars.

Gallo Images
Tom Moyane, suspended Sars commissioner, and Malusi Gigaba, removed as finance minister by President Cyril Ramaphosa, earlier this year.

Moyane disbanded Sars' enforcement units – including the High-Risk Investigations Unit (HRIU); the so-called "rogue unit" – he suspended Ivan Pillay, the deputy commissioner, he suspended Johann van Loggerenberg, group executive for tax and customs enforcement and investigations, and he suspended Pete Richer, group executive for strategic planning and risk.

There is stability at Sars, despite what is being written in the media... we will not contest what is in the public space. The current exodus of people was not caused by my arrival... there are always resignations in any organisation –Tom Moyane to MPs in March 2015.

Shortly after his resignation, Lackay sent a 25-page memorandum to Parliament's standing committee on finance and the joint standing committee on intelligence. The committees were chaired by senior ANC MPs Yunus Carrim and Connie September respectively. The memorandum set out exactly what Moyane was up to at Sars, how he was doing it, and what the consequences for the institution and state would be. It was a cry for help from a senior staffer at one of the country's most important departments.

On March 24, 2015, the day Lackay sent his memorandum to the committee, Sars appeared in front of MPs. The discussion was about a new human-resources framework and talent identification, among other things.

The following day, the committee met Moyane to discuss the now-discredited Sikhakhane Report, which recommended that the HRIU be disbanded following the Sunday Times' reports. Moyane waxed lyrical: "There is stability at Sars, despite what is being written in the media... we will not contest what is in the public space. The current exodus of people was not caused by my arrival... there are always resignations in any organisation," he told MPs.

By the end of the year Moyane had appointed 45 new executives and chief officers, all from outside Sars and most with no experience at the organisation or tax law or collection.

On April 21, 2015 the committee met again, this time to discuss Lackay's memorandum. Efforts by the DA to table it for discussion were shot down by Carrim, supported by Makhosi Khoza – who called the report "faceless" – and Des van Rooyen, who said it was "grandstanding". On May 5, 2015 the committee decided to leave Lackay's memorandum and the "rogue unit" in the hands of the JSCI. It sank without trace.

Moyane's assault on Sars gathered pace that year. The exodus of senior executives continued, many of who served when Sars' modernisation programme started under the leadership of then-commissioner Pravin Gordhan and then-finance minister Trevor Manuel.

By the end of the year, Moyane had appointed 45 new executives and chief officers, all from outside Sars and most with no experience at the organisation or tax law or collection.

The takeover of Sars was complete, and the ANC, under the leadership of Zuma, with then-deputy Cyril Ramaphosa the leader of government business in Parliament, alongside Stone Sizane as chief whip and Carrim as chair of the finance committee, did nothing.

Sars greatest success – the Large Business Centre – was collapsed into regional branches, and specialist units – like National Projects (Mark Lifman, Lolly Jackson and the illegal cigarette trade), Central Projects (Dave King, Robert Huang, Julius Malema), the Tactical Intervention Unit (border posts), the HRIU, and the Evidence Management and Technical Support Unit – were all disbanded.

The takeover of Sars was complete, and the ANC, under the leadership of Zuma, with then deputy Cyril Ramaphosa the leader of government business in Parliament, alongside Stone Sizane as chief whip and Carrim as chair of the finance committee, did nothing.

Lackay's memorandum, an assessment of the damage Moyane had caused and a prescient warning about what was to follow, was ignored. Media reports were discarded. Oversight had failed, party interests triumphed, and the constitutional imperative of executive accountability was dismissed.

Three years down the line, and a once proud institution will have to be resurrected. All because of elected officials and representatives not acting on something that was given to them on a platter.

It's a disgrace.

READ: Sars: Adrian Lackay's Full Memorandum