Moyane to ‘appear’ at tax inquiry – without invite

Suspended boss regards SARS probe as ‘witch-hunt’

Tom Moyane. File picture
Tom Moyane. File picture
Image: Gallo Images / The Times / Esa Alexander

Suspended SARS head Tom Moyane will appear at the Nugent inquiry into tax administration today – despite not being formally invited to appear.

Moyane’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza, said the suspended tax boss regarded the inquiry‚ conducted by Judge Robert Nugent‚ as “nothing else but a witch-hunt being conducted on Commissioner Moyane’s tenure at SARS”.

The inquiry heard yesterday that restructuring at the SA Revenue Service had culled its enforcement capacity.

Former chief officer for enforcement Gene Ravele told the inquiry that the tax agency’s capacity to conduct criminal investigations and prosecutions has been neutered since the restructuring under Moyane’s watch.

“The operational review was about dismantling enforcement‚” he said.

On Wednesday‚ the commission heard how the critical large-business centre was dismantled during the restructuring conducted between 2014 and 2016.

Ravele said he was aware that an instruction had been issued for SARS to halt all inspections on cigarette companies.

The instruction was allegedly issued by then second-incommand Jonas Makwakwa.

“The amount of revenue SARS collects from excise is dropping – if you are going to stop inspections, people are going to do as they wish‚” he said.

Ravele was at the helm of the division which housed the alleged “rogue unit” or the high-risk investigation unit – reports on which had weakened the institution and led to a purge of senior executives.

Ravele yesterday described the work done by the unit and denied that it had procured surveillance equipment.

Reports on the “rogue unit” have been largely discredited.

He said surveillance equipment was procured by the anticorruption unit within SARS and not by the high-risk investigation unit.

Ravele resigned from SARS in 2015 after nearly 20 years at the institution.

He said he had resigned after experiencing pressure from Moyane with trumped-up charges lodged against him with the police and the Hawks.

The inquiry also heard yesterday how Makwakwa allegedly interfered in the VIP taxpayer unit‚ until it was shifted to report to him.

Former group executive for corporate legal affairs Makungu Mthebule said Makwakwa had an inordinate amount of power under Moyane‚ so much so that she had complained about his “dictatorship”.

Mthebule was appointed to act in former executive Ivan Pillay’s position after his suspension in 2014‚ a division which also ran the “restricted taxpayer unit”, or VIP unit, at SARS.

This unit oversaw the taxes of prominent taxpayers such as politicians‚ judges‚ the head of the army and others.

Mthebule told the commission that Makwakwa would call and SMS her‚ instructing her to do certain things for certain high-profile taxpayers.

Taxpayers may not be identified in the inquiry.

She said he had not just asked her to act on certain taxpayer matters, but told her specifically what to do – for example, writing off tax or penalties.

She was asked whether this was common at SARS‚ to which she responded: “It’s not a normal query, definitely‚ he told me what to do‚ to write off things, especially for one particular taxpayer.”

She said her staff in the VIP division had also complained that Makwakwa had sought to interfere in VIP taxpayer matters they were handling.

She had refused to assist him and instructed her staff to do the same.

Apart from Moyane‚ Makwakwa was also the only member of the SARS executive committee who was privy to the organisational redesign conducted by consultant Bain.

Moyane is facing a disciplinary inquiry relating to his handling of allegations of suspicious and unusual transactions into Makwakwa’s bank accounts‚ amounting to some R1.2-million as identified by the Financial Intelligence Centre

BusinessLIVE, with additional reporting by Karyn Maughan