Moyane lent tacit approval to the Rogue unit storyline - former spokesperson

2017-04-06 21:28
Adrian Lackay (Cornél van Heerden, Netwerk24)

Adrian Lackay (Cornél van Heerden, Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - Denying that the alleged Rogue Unit existed was not the message SARS management wanted to convey to the public.

Former SARS spokesperson Adrian Lackay said during cross examination on Thursday that this was the message given by managers at SARS during a GCIS meeting held in December 2014.

Lackay is suing SARS for constructive dismissal before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). He wants to be awarded a year's salary.

SARS advocate Wisani Sibuyi asked Lackay if there was an impression created that he was either involved or associated with the Rogue Unit.

Lackay said his managers appeared to think so. He cited the GCIS meeting where deputy spokesperson Marika Muller told him he had been identified as the "problem" around the communication surrounding the alleged Rogue Unit.

"That through me SARS was denying the existence of such a unit publicly. Management clearly identified me as portraying the wrong message on the rogue unit - its denial," Lackay said.

Fear

He said he got a message from Muller which said "get a lawyer" after the meeting.

"At the office she tells me what happened. She was also filled with fear for both our positions. I think I am fully justified in believing that management believed I was part of the alleged rogue unit."

Sibuyi asked if Lackay had ever worked with the National Research Group, which was one of the names the unit used over the years.

Lackay said that some years prior he had been asked by SARS management to communicate work that the unit had been involved in.

It was a project in KwaZulu Natal and the unit was working with a specialised police task force and the Marine Coastal Management, Lackay explained.

A story was issued at the time, "Authorities seize more than five tons of abalone, six arrested in KwaZulu-Natal".

He said he was physically there with the investigators and the reason he brought this up in his testimony was because this showed the unit was known within SARS, it was not covert and it worked with other law enforcement agencies.

"The unit was publicly acknowledged within SARS. Council is relying on the findings of the Sikakhane panel that the unit was covert, but that was not my experience," Lackay said.

'Tacit approval'

Sibuyi had earlier in the day asked why Lackay had not lodged a grievance against SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane for keeping him in the dark on key events at the organisation.

"Colleagues had been suspended. I felt at the time there was a general climate of fear. I had been identified as the problem at a GCIS meeting. All this made me believe should I lodge a grievance against the SARS Commissioner it would be a futile exercise that would result in either my losing my job or some sort of grievance being lodged against me," Lackay said.

The SARS advocate also asked about a request Lackay had received by the then Co-operative Governance Minister Pravin Gordhan to compile a fact sheet on the allegations.

"What did Pravin Gordhan want to use the document for?" Sibuyi asked.

"He wanted to issue a media statement," said Lackay.

"He was not the Minister of Finance, why did he want to issue a statement?" Sibuyi asked.

Lackay said that Gordhan was being drawn into the allegations of the rogue unit and also allegations of giving preferential treatment to Ivan Pillay regarding Pillay's early retirement as well as his pensionable benefits.

"It was conveyed to me that Minister Gordhan at the time became concerned about these headlines and wanted to say something publicly for which he wanted our assistance. He also wanted to meet with Commissioner Moyane. But Mr Moyane was unavailable to meet Mr Gordhan," Lackay said.

Lackay said that Moyane appeared to "lend tacit approval" to the allegations that there was a Rogue Unit, because he did nothing to challenge the narrative in the media.

"He [Moyane] was new at SARS. This is an allegation that existed for five years. Aren't you being unfair to the commissioner?" Sibuyi asked.

Lackay said they tried to present facts to the Commissioner, but he did not want to receive such facts and information.

The hearing continues on Friday.

Read more on:    sars  |  adrian lackay

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