SARS damage worse than Nugent report suggests: Kieswetter

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PARLIAMENT, October 9 – The damage inflicted on the South African Revenue Service (SARS) while the organisation was politically corrupted was far worse than a reading of the Nugent report suggested, SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter said on Wednesday.

Responding to questions from members of parliament’s standing committee on finance, Kieswetter said the true extent of the trauma staff suffered during the period investigated by the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance was incalculable and hit home when he spoke to employees in person.

“It saddens me to say that the extent of the damage is far deeper than the Nugent commission says. Paper is patient,” Kieswetter said, quoting an Afrikaans proverb.

“When you look into their eyes, when you hear their stories you see the full extent of the trauma.”

Kieswetter said the organisation had lost a sense of trust and its ability to attract “good people” and needed to regain this.

He said he had met 92 employees in the Western Cape who were filing a class action suit in response to job advertisements that stated that the posts in question were available to African applicants, and in some cases only to African women.

“It is unconstitutional, so we have a class action case by 92 employees. We really don’t have a good case.”

“In another instance, the SARS leadership has discovered that employees were intimidated because they were conducting audits of people who had ‘political protection'”.

Kieswetter and other senior SARS officials were briefing the committee on the revenue service’s annual report.

It shows a revenue collection deficit of R14.5 billion for the financial year ending March 30, 2019.

The Nugent commission found that there had been a “significant failure of integrity and governance at SARS” and a deliberate dismantling of governance elements, along with a hollowing out of critical capabilities and a breakdown of vital relationships.

President Cyril Ramaphosa fired former commissioner Tom Moyane at the urging of the Nugent commission, which termed his entry into SARS in 2014 “a calamity”.

– African News Agency (ANA)