My superiors thought I was part of the 'rogue unit' - Lackay

2017-01-25 14:34
Adrian Lackay (Sarel van der Walt/Netwerk24)

Adrian Lackay (Sarel van der Walt/Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg – Former South African Revenue Service (SARS) spokesperson Adrian Lackay believed his superiors thought he was involved in the so-called "rogue unit", which is why he was sidelined until he felt compelled to resign.

"It was puzzling to me, and in the absence of any meaningful discussions with my superiors, the only conclusion I could come to [was] that I was associated with this alleged rogue unit, those who were accused of establishing the unit and the activities of the unit."

He said this during his third day of testimony in an arbitration hearing before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on Wednesday.

Lackay is arguing that his working conditions became unbearable amid allegations by SARS commissioner Tom Moyane that senior officials had set up an illegal, "rogue" spy unit.

He is seeking financial compensation.

Lackay worked for SARS for 11 years. He claims he was forced to leave after it became "strenuous, undesirable and intolerable" to work at the institution. He resigned in February 2015.

'Very uncertain'

Lackay said he did not lodge a grievance against his superiors for his treatment for fear that it would jeopardise his job further.

"My basic fears [were] either that I'd face some kind of disciplinary proceedings instituted by the employer, or that I would lose my job. I clearly didn't understand what was happening around me. It made me anxious, I was confused and I was very uncertain at the institution," he said.

By February 2015, SARS employees were working in a climate of fear, Lackay claimed.

This, he said, was caused by the intrigue at the institution at the time around the investigations into the "rogue unit", the suspensions of staff and the legal challenges to such suspensions.

"In that context, I genuinely feared that should I attempt a grievance procedure and lay such a complaint against the commissioner that they would deal with me very, very harshly. It would be regarded as an attack on the commissioner if I, as an employee, should bring a grievance on him."

Lackay said he was gradually pushed out of his position.

He described how, in January 2015, Luther Lubelo, took over communicating with the media, despite being an executive in the employee relations and human resources at the time.

'Crucial information kept from me'

"My duties in that respect [were] now limited, chairperson, it was clearly instructed that Mr Lubelo would take over many of those functions," he told the commission.

"The instruction to me by the acting chief operating officer, Mr Jonas Makwakwa, on 1 February that Luther will be the spokesperson on the current suspensions... I submit that such an instruction was clumsy, not properly considered and it was in effect a proxy to prevent me from speaking or answering inquiries from the media, from the national research group, or the so-called rogue unit.

"The problem for me was in that scenario I was still the first point of call for many journalists and at times I was in a position where I could not respond to them in a meaningful or informed manner and had to refer them either to Mr Lubelo, or say I couldn't assist them."

Lackay has repeatedly said in his testimony over the past two days that he was kept in the dark about events at SARS.

On Wednesday, he said he felt "crucial information was being kept from me on actions the institution was taking against its most senior officials.

"At this stage it was clear I was no longer allowed to respond to media inquiries on [the rogue unit]."

Lackay is expected to be cross-examined on Thursday.

Read more on:    ccma  |  sars  |  adrian lackay  |  johannesburg  |  rogue unit

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