Acting SARS head moves to boost morale and address concerns
29 July 2013
Posted by: Author: Amanda Visser
Author: Amanda Visser (BusinessDay)
Acting South African Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Ivan Pillay has been meeting executive and senior managers at the revenue service in an effort to boost morale and address concerns after the abrupt departure of commissioner Oupa Magashula more than two weeks ago.
Employees raised concerns about the effects of the "jobs-for-pals" scandal on the integrity of SARS, a breakdown in trust from disillusioned taxpayers and staff members and the effect this will have on compliance and service delivery levels.
Mr Pillay addressed a large group of senior managers from several SARS offices on Friday, saying that at a time like this "anti-compliant taxpayers" and disgruntled former employees who wage battles against SARS would increase their attacks.
"In the end we restore the confidence of the public by doing the right thing. No amount of spinning or ‘bling’ is going to do that. Compliance levels depend on how they see us and how government spends their money, and you know government is not spending the money well. If we show a lack of integrity then it will impact on compliance levels," he said.
"This is a crucial institution. It is among one of the few that works relatively well. If we start to crumble this country will be in great difficulty."
News of Mr Magashula’s involvement with a drug dealer and allegations that he offered a young chartered accountant a job had surfaced in Sunday newspapers this year, after which Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan requested an investigation.
The committee, headed by retired Judge Zak Yacoob, found that Mr Magashula had, by his conduct, placed the reputation and credibility of SARS at risk and that his behaviour required sanction. Mr Magashula was given the choice of accepting the correctness of the committee’s findings or facing a formal disciplinary hearing. He resigned.
Mr Pillay said he gave his former boss the benefit of the doubt. "I think so many of us were so desperate that Oupa should do well and that Oupa should succeed. He was the first African head of SARS.
"We gave him the benefit of the doubt. That is not an excuse and I apologise. As the person second in charge, I should have known much earlier.
"South Africans need role models who will show the way forward, especially African role models who begin to do the right things," he said.
Mr Pillay said the lessons from what happened were that one should live a simple life. "If you like too many good things, too many women, if you like good whisk y, like to be photographed and to visit where the powerful people are seen, life gets complicated," he said.
"The real lesson for the previously disadvantaged, especially African people, is keep it simple.
"If you buy the shiniest furniture and drive the biggest car and have three wives all at the same time — you will have difficulties and you will be compromised."
Mr Pillay said SARS was drafting the terms of reference for the external audit committee tasked with investigating whether any tax or customs legislation was undermined in the Magashula scandal. A clause saying "any other related matters" had been added.