Suspended South African Revenue Service (SARS) Commissioner Tom Moyane’s defence has given the President until Friday to stop the SARS Inquiry before escalating the matter to the courts. This is after the Head of the Commission, Judge Robert Nugent, rejected all relief requested by Moyane.
The Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance at SARS held its first public hearings of evidence from 26 to 29 June. President Cyril Ramaphosa established that commission in an effort to stabilise and restore public confidence in SARS.
Headed by retired Judge Robert Nugent, the commission used the first sitting of public hearings to investigate the mass loss of experienced staff at the revenue collector.
Former and present SARS executives described how fear reigned at the institution and how they were often subjected to intimidation under Moyane’s leadership.
Former Head of Enforcement at SARS, Gene Ravele, said bogus criminal charges were thrown at him by Moyane before he was served with a suspension letter. Subsequent to his departure, his unit was instructed to stop all inspections at Tobacco factories. Tax revenue collection in the tobacco industry has fallen by over 2 billion in the past two years.
Former Head of Legal Services, Makungu Mathebule, said she found herself sitting reading newspapers for 15 months while still receiving a salary of over R2 million after she unsuccessfully reapplied for her job when the restructuring was introduced during Moyane’s tenure at SARS.
Mathebule says Moyane’s former second-in-charge, Jonas Makwakwa often interfered with business processes which were unrelated to his area of work.
Former SARS executives denied the existence of a rogue unit but instead revealed that there was a high risk investigation unit which looked into the illicit economy and investigated organised crime.
Appearing before the inquiry on the final day of public hearings, Moyane’s legal representative, Advocate Dali Mpofu, submitted objections and called for the discontinuation of the inquiry. He said that failure to invite Moyane to the inquiry was unfair and a violation of his rights.
Retired Judge Robert Nugent rejected all of Moyane’s requests for relief which included the discontinuation of the inquiry, a directive for SARS to provide Moyane with legal assistance, the recusal of Professor Michael Katz from the panel’s commission and to expunge all oral evidence from the record.
Nugent said Professor Michael Katz was appointed by the president for his expertise in tax administration and will continue to fulfil his advisory duties in the inquiry. Moyane objected to Professor Michael Katz’ participation in the inquiry saying he may be compromised as he is President Cyril Ramaposa’s personal and business lawyer.
Moyane’s lawyers have given President Cyril Ramaphosa until Friday to stop or disestablish investigations into SARS before approaching the higher courts. Moyane’s attorney, Eric Mabuza says if they fail to reach an agreement with the President, they will approach the courts.
Former Chief of Business and Individual Tax at SARS, Jonas Makwakwa, has written a letter to the Inquiry asking to present his side of the story. The inquiry is expected to reconvene in August.
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