'No idea' if Monyeki as middleman was irregular, Gartner exec claims

South African Revenue Service
South African Revenue Service

Global consulting firm Gartner came under fire on Tuesday as the Nugent commission of inquiry sought to understand if it was normal business practice for the company to engage businessman Patrick Monyeki to act as a middleman for its extensive multi-million rand IT contract with SARS.

It is not clear if Monyeki, a friend of suspended SARS chief Tom Moyane, was acting on an official mandate from the tax agency. Monyeki was also involved in drawing up the terms of the contract. 

Judge Robert Nugent asked Gartner Managing Vice President Michael Lithgow if this would have been the company's standard practice in its dealings elsewhere in the world. 

"Does Gartner do business this way elsewhere outside Africa? Does it happen in Europe, for that matter?" asked Nugent.

Lithgow responded, "I have no idea."

Nugent then asked Lithgow why Monyeki's involvement was allowed in South Africa, to which Lithgow responded that he was not in a position to answer that question. 

Lithgow was the executive responsible for oversight in the R200m IT contract awarded to Gartner without following the normal bidding process.

Business unusual?

Gartner was considered a sole supplier for the services required in a bid published in December 2014. The timing of the bid, during a quiet holiday period, has been described as highly unusual by SARS staffers and a National Treasury official who gave evidence before the inquiry.

Earlier, Gartner Senior Managing Partner Neville Willemse was asked about the timing of the contract. He responded that Moyane wanted the company to finish its work by March 2015.

In March, Moyane publicly revealed his friendship with Monyeki, and Nugent wanted to know why the company never questioned the relationship between Monyeki and Moyane.

Monyeki is linked to Rangewave, the company Gartner reportedly offered 40% of its contract. 

The commission also wanted to know if this was usual practice, or whether it was one of the conditions for the contract.

Lithgow stated that he did not recall a statement by SARS directing that Rangewave be given work.

Gartner was called to review the IT modernisation programme, which was put on ice shortly after Moyane arrived in 2014.

The end product of Gartner’s work was a new IT strategy for SARS, which has not been implemented. The tax service’s digital hardware infrastructure has not been upgraded since 2014, according to information that emerged from the hearing last week.

Acting SARS Commissioner Mark Kingon last week stated that although the agency’s e-filing system was not on the verge of collapse, attention was needed.

The commission will reconvene in early November, before submitting a final report to the presidency by the end of the same month.

An interim report has already recommended that Moyane be removed and a new commissioner be appointed urgently. President Cyril Ramaphosa is said to be applying his mind to the recommendations.

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