Former SARS spokesperson 'kept in the dark on rogue unit'

2017-01-23 15:21
Adrian Lackay. (Cornél van Heerden, Netwerk24)

Adrian Lackay. (Cornél van Heerden, Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - Former SARS spokesperson Adrian Lackay claims he was "kept in the dark" when the report probing the so-called rogue unit was handed to commissioner Tom Moyane. 

Lackay is testifying at a Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) hearing and his legal team has hinted that his evidence could reveal more about what happened at SARS after Moyane took office in October 2014.

He has previously argued before the CCMA that his working conditions became unbearable amid allegations by Moyane that an illegal "rogue" spy unit had been set up by senior officials.

Lackay, who was employed for 11 years at the South African Revenue Service, has claimed that he was forced to leave after it became "untenable" to associate himself with the goings on at the revenue service.

He resigned in February 2015.

On Monday, Lackay said his two main roles as spokesperson of SARS were to build a good relationship with the media and to work on crisis and reputational risk management.

Maintaining relationships with media, public

He testified that, in order to do his job properly, he needed to be fully informed by his superiors so that he could draw up media responses that were as transparent and truthful as possible.

Lackay said this not only helped strengthen his relationship with the media, but also the public who could put their trust in the institution. 

"You need to understand the full picture in order to answer as truthfully as possible. Your managers have to have your full trust in order not to conceal information," Lackay said. 

"If not, you are required to work in the dark. It would be like having one hand tied behind your back when you enter a boxing ring."

If he was seen to be untruthful or not knowledgeable about the subject matter, it would affect both his reputation and that of the institution, said Lackay.

He had a good relationship with previous commissioners, but said by the time he left SARS in 2015 his relationship with Moyane was "severely strained" and he had almost no contact with him.

He was, for instance, kept in the dark when the Sikhakhane report was handed to Moyane. The report was on the so-called rogue unit found to be operating illegally within SARS.

'Anxiety, fear'

Lackay told the CCMA that after Moyane was appointed as commissioner, he began suspending senior SARS officials, as well as the executive committee. He said that, between September 2014 and March 2015, 55 senior managers left SARS, including the deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and chief operating officer Barry Hore.

Lackay said, before he left SARS, he was told twice that disciplinary action would be taken against him and that a job had been advertised with "more or less" similar descriptions to his own job.

"This created a lot of anxiety and fear in my mind," Lackay said.    

Even though Lackay had worked on "Project Snowman", an intelligence dossier into a so-called covert unit in 2009, and had knowledge of the structure and work of the so-called rogue unit, his input was not sought during the 2014 and 2015 media storm around the unit.

When Lackay's lawyer Advocate Paul Pretorius, SC, questioned him about the establishment of the so-called rogue unit, the SARS legal team objected, saying the history of the unit had nothing to with Lackay's issues with his employer.

Pretorius replied that the history was significant as they would be calling a witness who would reveal for the first time exactly why Lackay was "treated the way he was".

Testimony is continuing.  

Read more on:    ccma  |  sars  |  adrian lackay  |  tom moyane  |  johannesburg

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