|SARS head orders review of functions|
10 February 2015
SOUTH African Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Tom Moyane has commissioned a comprehensive review of all work processes, information technology systems and personnel requirements with a view to founding a new operating model and structure for the organisation.
Mr Moyane’s arrival in October has coincided with ructions at SARS after allegations that a "rogue unit" illegally collected intelligence on illicit economic activities. Several top executives have been suspended and several others have resigned in the wake of Mr Moyane’s reorganisation.
News that SARS is headed for a complete overhaul was announced by Mr Moyane in a letter to staff last month. In it he says the review will: assess the operational challenges of SARS; assess the "people challenges"; assess its information technology (IT) and modernisation strategy; assess its image problems; and make recommendations for a new operating structure and model.
Consultants from Gartner Inc, Bain and accounting firm KPMG have been appointed, with a first report expected in April.
The review has sparked fears among staff that it is a precursor to a much bigger reorganisation of people as well as a reorganisation of SARS procurement, especially with its big IT service providers.
The IT and modernisation strategy, which was the project of chief operating officer Barry Hore, who resigned in December, has been widely regarded as a great success story.
In SARS’s response to questions sent to Mr Moyane last week, a spokesman said the review did not arise out of a sense of crisis or concern over the efficacy of existing systems but was a forward-looking exercise that would help SARS improve its systems.
"It is our belief that our operating model must be reviewed regularly to ensure that we remain current and relevant.... This point is amplified by the fact that the current operating model and the SARS modernisation agenda is driven by the operating model that was introduced in 2007," SARS said in a statement.
"This is a proactive process.… The intention of the review is for SARS to gain a fresh understanding of the status of the organisation, its processes, practices and the technology we use to accomplish our mandate," it said.
SARS has informed industry in a notice about the review.
South African Institute of Tax Practitioners deputy CEO Keith Engel said he did not believe the review to be cause for alarm.
"Everything you can read into it means that this review could go either way. There is no indication at this stage that it means ‘out with the old and in with the new’. I would say we need to wait and see," he said.
Caution was also urged by Rhodes business school professor Matthew Lester. "There is a lot of hysteria ... at the moment. Our starting point should be to recognise that it is a long time since such a review was conducted. I think it’s a good thing, so long as it is conducted properly," he said.
SARS said it was premature to foresee either a change in contracting and procurement arrangements, or in personnel, as a result of the review.
"The intention of the review is not to enforce personnel changes. However, organisations are ‘living’ and dynamic entities and as such, changes are a part of the natural life cycle of any organisation. From time to time these also include officials joining and moving on," it said.
Questions have been raised over the current interest in the "rogue unit", since various state departments have been aware of it and asked to investigate over the past four years.
The unit’s inception dates back almost eight years and allegations that it had overstepped its legal mandate by doing "covert" work emerged in 2009. An inquiry was registered a year later by the State Security Agency, and SARS wrote to the police to ask for an investigation into the unit’s activities.
With Natasha Marrian