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Tax inquiry to probe if SARS officials were coerced to quit

May 24 2018 13:29
Jan Cronje

Cape Town – A major new commission of inquiry into the SA Revenue Service has been given a wide mandate to investigate the tax agency’s corporate governance, including whether tenders were correctly awarded, whether criminal investigations were covered up, and if any former employees of the agency had been coerced to leave. 

The commission, first mentioned by President Ramaphosa in his maiden State of the Nation Address in February, is investigating the functioning and corporate governance of the tax agency in the wake of repeated revenue shortfalls, delays in VAT refunds and allegations of mismanagement and corruption among top staff. 

The commission comes as the revenue agency’s commissioner Tom Moyane remains suspended, awaiting a disciplinary hearing. 

Ramaphosa on Wednesday announced that retired Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Robert ‘Bob’ Nugent would chair the inquiry. 

It will have powers to enter and search premises, summons witnesses and compel entities or persons to provide it with documentation. 

In the terms of reference published in the government gazette on Thursday, the President said that the commission must also probe whether any criminal investigations were ignored “under the auspices of taxpayer confidentially” and whether the agency favoured or discriminated against prominent persons in their tax affairs. 

The commission has also been tasked to investigate how and why a number of employees left SARS since 2014, and whether any employees were “coerced in any manner into resigning”. 

Nugent will also have to make recommendations around how the agency can be improved. 

“[The commission will investigate] Whether the current governance and operating models of SARS is the most effective and efficient model and, if not, make recommendations as to the most suitable governance and operational models for SARS for the future,” it states. 

Nugent and his team including Michael Katz, Mabongi Masilo and Vuyo Kahla will need to provide Ramaphosa with an interim report by September 30, and a final report by November 30 2018. 

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