Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to save Sars

2015-04-26 15:00

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Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is brokering an exit deal between suspended SA Revenue Service (Sars) deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and the revenue collector’s head, Tom Moyane.

Pillay is demanding R6?million from the taxman, which he says is money due to him for the remainder of his contract.

City Press learnt that the ANC was trying to save the image of Sars after persistent negative reports about infighting at the organisation appeared in the media over the past few months.

Those who have already left Sars since the exodus of senior staff members started in the middle of last year include chief operating officer Barry Hore; modernisation and strategy head Jérôme Frey; the head of the case selection division under Hore, Jacques Meyer; anticorruption and security head Clifford Collings; Sars investigations head Johan van Loggerenberg; Pillay’s special adviser Yolisa Pikie; and spokespeople Adrian Lackay and Marika Muller.

City Press has learnt from three senior Sars sources that Ramaphosa, who returns from a government trip to Indonesia today, has held several meetings with both Pillay and Moyane.

“The deal was supposed to have been finalised this week, but [Ramaphosa’s] trip, which President Jacob Zuma was due to take prior to the xenophobia attacks, delayed the processes. The talks are expected to resume [this] week,” a senior Sars source said.

According to two senior sources, who are familiar with the negotiations, the talks hit a snag a few weeks ago when Moyane insisted that disciplinary hearings against Pillay should continue.

“Ramaphosa has been asked by the ANC to broker a deal that could lead to the end of the protracted disciplinary hearings, as well as the negative publicity arising from the issue,” said another Sars employee who was familiar with the talks.

City Press has learnt that Ramaphosa’s intervention came after discussions facilitated by ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte failed.

“Ivan belongs to the ANC and, despite the differences, the ANC does not want to have him and commissioner Moyane battling it out in the courts and airing their dirty laundry in public,” a source said.

It is understood that some of the issues that led to Ramaphosa’s intervention were the fact that Pillay, Pikie and Sars group executive Peter Richer – who was suspended in December – were in the process of challenging Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane’s objectivity in his report on their disciplinary proceedings.

“[Sikhakhane’s] findings are flawed in many ways, and Pillay and others were already in consultation with their legal counsel and are drafting papers seeking to challenge the report. The report on its own does not implicate Pillay and Richer and they deem their suspensions unlawful,” a source close to Pillay said.

However, if Ramaphosa’s proposed deal is agreed to, the challenge to Sikhakhane’s report would be dropped.

Pillay, who is due to appear before the disciplinary hearing next month, was suspended in December.

Pillay, Richer and Van Loggerenberg are accused of running a so-called rogue spy unit within Sars.

Pillay faces at least 10 disciplinary charges, including that he set up the unit, which spied on politicians and a brothel. In February, Sars issued Pillay with a letter of demand for R110?million, which it alleges he used to operate the unit.

In fresh developments indicative of the infighting, Lackay this week wrote a scathing letter to the standing committee on finance’s chair, Yunus Carrim, and joint standing committee on intelligence chair Connie September thatexposed the issues he claims led to the exodus of some of his colleagues.

Lackay alleges he was forced to issue false statements by the newly appointed commissioner, Moyane.

He also maintained that the existence of a rogue spy unit in Sars was false. He said those who opposed the narrative of a rogue unit were bullied and threatened, and their lives had been made unbearable.

“I believe that, even now, persons are being and will continue to be victimised and bullied for wanting to out the truth, sometimes at great cost to Sars, by way of legal threats. Ultimately, the taxpayer has to foot the bill for this,” he said.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa, declined to comment on the discussions.

“We cannot confirm if the deputy president is involved in such discussions,” Mamoepa said.

Moyane also declined to comment.

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