SARS not as 'rock solid' as it claimed - Lackay

2017-04-04 17:59
Adrian Lackay. (File, Cornél van Heerden, Netwerk24)

Adrian Lackay. (File, Cornél van Heerden, Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - SARS leadership lied to the media when they said there was no instability at the institution and that its leadership was “rock solid”, a CCMA hearing was told on Tuesday. 

Former SARS spokesperson Adrian Lackay said this during cross-examination at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in Johannesburg. 

He has taken SARS to the CCMA for constructive dismissal and wants to be awarded a year’s salary. 

Rock solid

Lackay said that during a Talk Radio 702 interview with host John Robbie, with which he wasn't asked to help, SARS executive Luther Lebelo used a hostile tone when speaking to the media. 

Lackay said on Monday that Lebelo had no previous experience in dealing with the media. 

“Mr Lebelo projected the image that everything is well at SARS and that there is not instability. He said the leadership remained ‘rock solid’ to use his exact term,” Lackay said.  

SARS advocate Wisani Sibuyi asked Lackay if he disagreed with what Lebelo had said.

“From my experience as an employee, I absolutely disagree,” Lackay said. He said Lebelo had been untruthful.

Lackay earlier testified that he had been excluded from receiving information on major events at SARS, which effectively stopped him from being able to respond to the media and he was therefore unable to do his job. 

Own way of doing things

“My experience at SARS was that my advice would be sought regarding any decision that was made to comment to the media. Why that changed in the beginning of 2015? I do not know,” Lackay said.  

Sibuyi put it to him that his complaint was that SARS commissioner Tom Moyane was “doing things wrong compared to your past experiences. 

“Do you understand that Moyane has his own way of doing things? You are the one who had to adapt. You wanted things your way,” Sibuyi said.

Lackay denied that he refused to adapt.

The SARS lawyer focused on suspended chief operating officer Jonas Makwakwa. He asked Lackay what Makwakwa had done to make his employment at SARS intolerable. 

Makwakwa and his girlfriend Kelly Ann Elskie were suspended from SARS in 2016 after suspicious transactions totalling R1.3 million appeared in his bank account. 

Lackay replied that Makwakwa called a meeting with the Government Communication and Information System and identified him as the problem in SARS’s communications about the alleged rogue unit. He said Makwakwa gave the instruction to advertise two new positions that were very similar to his job.

Media liaison

Makwakwa gave the instruction for Lebelo to take over some of Lackay’s duties.

“Makwakwa inferred that Lebelo would take over my functions. I believed they were looking at replacing me,” Lackay said.

Makwakwa was outside the hearing, but it was not yet clear if he would be called as a witness for SARS.

Sibuyi asked Lackay if he had asked Makwakwa if he intended replacing him. Lackay said he had not, out of fear.

“From the beginning of December 2014 until February 2015 Mr Makwakwa was appointed on an acting basis as chief operating officer. Together with Mr Lebelo he worked closely with Mr Moyane. He was instrumental, I believe, in the suspension of a number of SARS employees,” Lackay said. 

New people

The two jobs which Lackay referred to were for a “senior specialist media liaison and an executive in media liaison”. They were advertised in newspapers. Lackay said the description of the jobs was similar to what he did at SARS. 

“I believed they were getting new people to replace me,” Lackay said. 

Sibuyi suggested that the jobs were not there to replace him, but were instead adding to the SARS media relations portfolio. 

“Those adverts should not be viewed in isolation,” Lackay said. 

The hearing continues. 

Read more on:    sars  |  adrian lackay  |  johannesburg

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