Windfall for tainted Sars executives

SIX-MONTHS PAYOUT: Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane, the former SA Revenue Service chief of digital and IT
SIX-MONTHS PAYOUT: Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane, the former SA Revenue Service chief of digital and IT

The cleanup at the SA Revenue Service (Sars) is continuing apace, but senior officials who served under former commissioner Tom Moyane have received payouts to leave the embattled tax collector.

The Financial Mail (FM) understands that former Sars IT boss Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane agreed to a six-month payout.

Her resignation, along with that of former group head of employment relations Luther Lebelo, was announced earlier in October.

In August, Sars announced a slew of suspensions of senior officials who were identified in the final report of the commission of inquiry into tax and governance at Sars, chaired by retired judge Robert Nugent.

Makhekhe-Mokhuane was appointed through a flawed process by Moyane in 2017, without the required ministerial approval.

She caused a stir during her appearance before the commission due to her apparent lack of knowledge of the IT environment and due to the fact that she attended only four out of 14 strategy meetings at a time when the tax agency’s IT systems were in dire need of maintenance and repair.

Sars’s multibillion-rand IT systems are vital to its functioning and ability to fulfil its mandate.

Her testimony was described as “disastrous” by Nugent.

She also caused Sars considerable embarrassment when she told an SABC interviewer to “protect me from yourself” when she was asked what needed to be done to fix Sars’s IT infrastructure.

Makhekhe-Mokhuane was suspended in August, but had been on discretionary leave for four months before then.

She reportedly turned down a settlement offer of four months’ remuneration in exchange for her resignation.

The FM understands that through mutual agreement, she received R1.8m — a six-month payout — and has left the tax agency.

Asked about the settlement, Sars declined to comment.

“Sars respects the confidentiality of the employer-employee relationship and requests that the privacy of the individuals concerned be maintained. Sars will not comment further,” it said.

According to people familiar with the matter, who wished to remain anonymous, the departure of tainted individuals who were mentioned in Nugent’s final report enables the new leadership to rebuild Sars without being bogged down by lengthy and potentially expensive disciplinary processes.

All of the individuals who have now left formed part of the executive committee — a key leadership structure which provided critical support to the commissioner in running Sars.

Having the tainted individuals depart speedily enables new commissioner Edward Kieswetter to appoint a new executive team to speed up the rebuilding of the institution.

A similar settlement offer was apparently extended to other senior executives who served under Moyane.

An insider who felt the individuals who had left Sars should account for their role in the destruction of the tax agency described it as a “six-month extravaganza”.

Former chief officer for human capital and development Teboho Mokoena resigned last week and enforcement head Hlengani Mathebula resigned in August.

As for Makhekhe-Mokhuane, Nugent’s final report showed that she was hired in March 2017 and her salary was increased by 42.23% just two months later in May 2017, because she asked for her salary to be on par with that of other chief officers.

In the report, Nugent said: “It is concerning that salaries could be increased so significantly just for the asking. Mokoena motivated his recommendation on no more than that they should be on par with the other chief officers.

“If the appointees were aggrieved that their remuneration was not on a par with that of other chief officers, they ought not to have taken the appointments in the first place.

“That is not a rational basis for arbitrary increases to be granted.”

The report was also scathing about Makhekhe-Mokhuane’s appointment.

It appeared that no-one on the panel that interviewed her had any IT experience or exposure to Sars’s systems — a requirement particularly relevant because the candidate would have had to take charge of the IT systems.

Nugent said IT was at the very heart of Sars’s business and her experience and qualifications had little bearing on the complex IT systems she would have had to manage.

“We think it is manifest that she does not have the capacity to take control of Sars IT.

“The aggressive, indecorous and unusual manner in which she gave evidence before the commission was also not appropriate for a person in her position at Sars,” the report said. — Financial Mail