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SARS executive: I am no Moyane hitman

Sep 27 2018 16:47
Sibongile Khumalo

From executive bonuses to payments of legal fees for matters that had nothing to do with SARS, the man who has been described as Tom Moyane’s enforcer on Thursday struggled to answer questions about his role in some of the transactions he signed off.

Luther Lebelo, the group executive for employment relations at SARS, was asked to explain the basis for some of the actions that took place under his watch.

"The reason why I'm here is because a particular narrative has been created that I participated in a purge of my colleagues," he said.

"I have also been labelled a Moyane hitman."

Lebelo was privy to many labour relations decisions under Moyane’s tenure, and approved payments for a range of services undertaken by the tax service. 

The Nugent inquiry revealed that one of the payments was for legal opinion on Moyane’s implication on the book The Maputo Connection, which detailed events about his early life.

Lebelo signed off on lawyers’ invoices, in a matter labelled as unrelated to the official duties of the commissioner or the tax service.

Asked to explain the legality of such a payment, Lebelo told the commission that it was not his responsibility to question the invoices, but only to make ensure that the services that SARS was being billed for actually took place.

Lebelo was also quizzed about the payment of bonuses to executive members, done without National Treasury approval in 2016.

He testified that the R3m bonuses were paid after obtaining three legal opinions; however, Judge Robert Nugent dismissed the claim.

Ivan Pillay suspension

As head of labour relations, Lebelo was also one of the people who played a role in the events around suspension of former deputy SARS commissioner Ivan Pillay on December 5, 2014. 

Pillay was suspended without being afforded a disciplinary hearing and Lebelo testified that his suspension was on the strength of Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane's report.

The report found that Pillay had been instrumental in setting up an unlawful covert unit within SARS, he said.

Judge Robert Nugent also wanted to find out why the unit was considered unlawful, and Lebelo responded that he was "not competent to say it was unlawful".

The inquiry further heard that not only did SARS not afford Pillay a hearing, Moyane refused to read a document that he had prepared in his defence.

Lawyers were also paid to render legal opinion on whether Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) had legal authority to investigate former chief executive of business and individual tax Jonas Makwakwa.

"I didn’t even know that there was a FIC report. I just saw instructions on sourcing an opinion about the FIC," he said.

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