EXCLUSIVE: Latest senior manager leaves SARS

2017-03-01 13:08
Sars commissioner Tom Moyane. (File, City Press)

Sars commissioner Tom Moyane. (File, City Press)

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Johannesburg – Just days after SARS commissioner Tom Moyane said that the outflow of experienced officials at the revenue service was a myth, an audit manager with more than 20 years’ experience has left.

Senior audit manager Lorraine van Esch resigned last month and worked her last day at the South African Revenue Service on Tuesday.

Van Esch was the audit manager responsible for some of the biggest, high profile tax cases in the last few years.

Among the cases she was in charge of were audits against Zuma family-linked company Mpisi Trading, mega-rich billionaire tenderpreneurs the Mpisanes, EFF leader Julius Malema, investor fraudster Gary van der Merwe, and the Prasa tax audit.

Van Esch was in charge of cases involving assessments in excess of R3bn.

News24 understands that part of the reason Van Esch resigned is that managers at the Enforcement Audit Unit wanted auditors to do smaller, more limited-scope audits, and to reduce the complex audits, some of which she was doing.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Van Esch had been at the revenue service since 1994.

Van Esch refused to comment on her resignation.

'There is nothing falling apart'

SARS said they did not divulge or discuss details of internal processes and employee information in the public domain, as these were confidential matters between the organisation and its employees.

Van Esch's departure from SARS comes against the backdrop of a R30.4bn revenue shortfall, which has led to a falling out between Moyane and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

At a press conference on Friday, Moyane said there was no "capacity" issue in the organisation, as alluded to by Gordhan in the National Budget speech.

"To those who might be listening and looking to us, there is nothing falling apart in this organisation, we are stronger by the day and we are resilient and we will do what is correct," said Moyane.

Referring to media reports that SARS had lost a number of senior staff, and therefore its institutional strength, Moyane said it was not an issue.

"This issue of losing people narrative is losing traction… to count the number of people who left SARS was five or six," he said. "They left on their own volition and [it] does not indicate a lack of skills and capacity in the organisation."

'We are doing much better'

Moyane added that the only capacity he has to create is for "black and new blood".

"It does not augur well to be on [the] bandwagon to say people have left, and there is no capacity," he said. "We are doing much better than in the past, we have upped the ante, and producing figures people can be excited about."

In January at a CCMA hearing, former SARS spokesperson Adrian Lackay testified that, after Moyane was appointed as commissioner, he began suspending senior SARS officials, as well as the executive committee.

Lackay said that, between September 2014 and March 2015, 55 senior managers left SARS, including deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and chief operating officer Barry Hore.

Van Esch’s departure was in the same week that News24 reported that possibly the most experienced customs investigator at SARS, Kumaran Moodley, had been suspended. He headed the Tactical Intervention Unit, which was busy with numerous investigations into the tobacco industry and into Mpisi Trading.

The cases, if won by SARS, would have recovered billions of rand for the fiscus in unpaid VAT and excise duties.

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Read more on:    sars  |  tom moyane  |  johannesburg

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