5 challenges Kieswetter faces as new SARS boss

Edward Kieswetter was deemed the best candidate out of seven which were short listed for the top post at the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

Treasury on Wednesday evening issued a statement announcing that Kieswetter, former deputy SARS commissioner and CEO at Alexander Forbes, was appointed new commissioner with effect from May 1.

Kieswetter has previously served as a senior executive at Eskom. As Alexander Forbes CEO, he led a turnaround which resulted in its listing on the JSE in 2014, according to his CV. He has recently been appointed to the board of Transnet.

A selection panel led by former finance minister Trevor Manuel - and which included Angela Bester, Justice Dennis Davis, Sindi Mabaso-Koyana, Ismail Momoniat, Thandi Orleyn and Fezekile Tshiqi - found Kieswetter's qualifications, experience, management style, track record and competencies to be the best for the position and task at hand. 

Fin24 has seen the panel's report to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni which details the selection process as well as why Kieswetter was deemed the preferred candidate.

The panel's report also mentions key challenges that the incumbent SARS boss would have to address.

These are the challenges that await him:

1. Restore revenue collection, credibility and integrity

In the Nugent report, compiled following the conclusion of the inquiry into the revenue service, Judge Robert Nugent highlighted the importance of restoring "sound management" at SARS to "arrest ongoing loss of revenue" and "eroding tax compliance".

The panel noted that the new commissioner's management style would leave an indelible mark on the character of the institution, given the scope of the transition required.

According to the Nugent report SARS, led by former commissioner Tom Moyane, was reeking of "intrigue, fear, distrust and suspicion".

At the time the revenue service's reputation was tarnished by what had happened and Nugent said that staff were "demoralised". The disturbing state of SARS had affected its revenue collecting ability, he added.

2. Restructuring SARS in a coherent and efficient manner

Kieswetter will not only have to restore revenue collection but also bring about organisational change, the panel said in its report.

"It is imperative during the period of this appointment that SARS emerges as a stronger organisation."

3. Direct SARS operations toward innovation and a strong future-orientation

The Nugent commission found that Moyane had stopped the drive to modernise systems.

The selection panel said that in order for the new commissioner to "lead the SARS of tomorrow", while also tackling" SARS's current challenges, the leader must possess a "strong orientation to technology and innovation". 

4. Developing and nurturing future leaders for the organisation

The selection panel said it is of particular importance that the new commissioner focus on a succession plan, particularly in terms of the pipeline of future leaders in the organisation.

The panel also strongly recommended that female leadership in SARS be developed.

According to his CV, Kieswetter teaches leadership at a postgraduate level and is also a member of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and actively mentors and supports young professionals.

5. Make firm and tough decisions, maintain strong relations with stakeholders and restore the credibility

The panel deemed it necessary for the new commissioner to have a management style that is both decisive and transformative.

"A new commissioner would have to balance the interests of disparate stakeholders, requiring excellent interpersonal skills along with a track record of managing difficult stakeholder relations and possess an ability to resist extraneous pressures," the report read.

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