SARS Inquiry resumes amid looming Constitutional Court bid

The Nugent Commission of Inquiry into the South African Revenue Service (SARS) on Monday resumed in Pretoria, despite a brewing Constitutional Court bid by suspended tax boss Tom Moyane to have it halted.

Judge Robert Nugent, who is heading the inquiry, has also filed a notice of motion to oppose Moyane’s application, arguing that "there is no basis for granting direct access to the Constitutional Court".

Nugent - the third respondent in Moyane's application - also stated that the application was not in the interest of justice and did not fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the court.

Early this month, Moyane directly approached the highest court in the land, seeking an order to halt either the disciplinary inquiry instituted against him, or the Nugent inquiry, which is probing the governance of the tax issue under his leadership, on grounds that it is unconstitutional for him to face both at the same time. 

Key testimony expected

Acting SARS Commissioner Mark Kingon is due to give evidence at the Nugent Commission on Friday, in what is expected to provide leadership insight into SARS operations.

The hearing will last all week and proceed for two days next week. Nugent has already submitted his interim report to President Cyril Ramaphosa, but the document has not yet been made public.

Several heads of the business unit have already given evidence before the inquiry, including consulting firm Bain & Company, which drafted the controversial operating model adopted in 2014.

In his application, Moyane included Ramaphosa, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan, Nugent, and chairperson of the disciplinary inquiry, advocate Azhar Bham, as respondents.

The Constitutional Court is usually the last line of defence for critical rights infringement cases. However, Moyane argued that going through the normal legal route would take longer and may not be complete before the end of his contract with SARS in September 2019.

Moyane was appointed by President Jacob Zuma in September 2014.

The Nugent inquiry, which started in July, has heard damning evidence of how the tax service was almost run to the ground as a result of a restructuring plan ordered by Moyane, including the dismantling of key tax collection and enforcement units.

On Monday, Intikhab Shaik, who heads the Business Solutions unit, gave evidence on the overhaul of the service’s IT systems by advisory firm Gartner, which he described as "highly confusing".

He said the majority of SARS staff did not buy into the multi-million rand Gartner IT strategy, saying he did not understand what why it was necessary.

Testimony is ongoing.

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