Former Alexander Forbes boss Edward Kieswetter appointed new SARS commissioner

Edward Kieswetter has been appointed as the new Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service, with effect from May 1, 2019, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement on Wednesday.

Kieswetter, a former group chief executive at Alexander Forbes, will serve a term of five years.

The decision was informed by the recommendation of the president, the ministry said.

'In secret'

Earlier on Wednesday, Fin24 reported that the EFF objected to the process of choosing the new commissioner. 

According to the EFF, it sent a letter and parliamentary questions to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni in February this year, specifically asking why they are conducting the SARS commissioner selection process "in secret".

A few weeks ago, Mboweni reappointed Mark Kingon as acting head of SARS until June 11, or until Ramaphosa appointed a permanent commissioner.

Kingon has been leading the revenue service in an acting capacity since March 2018 after then-commissioner Tom Moyane was placed on suspension. In November last year Ramaphosa removed Moyane following a recommendation contained in the then-interim Nugent report.

In February this year, Mboweni appointed a panel – led by former finance minister Trevor Manuel – to interview and recommend to Ramaphosa a shortlist of candidates for the position of SARS commissioner.

Earlier, the the Black Management Forum (BMF) had expressed concern at what it called a "rushed and guarded" recruitment process in appointing a new SARS commissioner.

'All necessary disclosures'

"The process for the appointment of the SARS Commissioner is informed by the South African Revenue Service Act and was guided by the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance by SARS chaired by retired Judge Robert Nugent," the Finance Ministry said in its statement. 

The independent selection panel was chaired by former Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel and composed of members Angela Bester, Dennis Davis, Sindi Mabaso-Koyana, Ismail Momoniat, Thandi Orleyn and Fezekile Tshiqi. 

According to the statement, six candidates were shortlisted, namely Nathaniel Mabetwa, Sunita Manik, Edward Kieswetter, Mark Kingon, Gene Ravele and Nazrien Kader.

"The Minister of Finance [Tito Mboweni] submitted the panel’s report and his recommendation to the President on Monday, 25 March 2019. The President has accepted the Minister’s recommendation," the statement said. "The National Treasury is confident that the process undertaken has integrity and all necessary disclosures were made and no conflicts of interest have been identified throughout this process."

Strongest candidate

"Mr Kieswetter emerged as the strongest candidate, based on his past experience as Deputy Commissioner for SARS between 2004 and 2009, and his subsequent track record of transformative leadership and his experience of turning around a large institution."

During his tenure at SARS, Kieswetter established the Large Business Centre and High Net Worth Individual Unit, leading to both compliance and revenue collection improvements, the statement added. As Group Chief Executive of Alexander Forbes Group Holdings he achieved a significant turnaround of the group, with particular attention to governance, integrity and restoring the group’s reputation, it said.

Ramaphosa said: "We have every confidence that Mr Kieswetter has the experience, integrity and skills required to turn SARS around by restoring revenue collection, redirecting operations toward innovation, developing future leaders for the organisation, and restoring SARS’ credibility and integrity."

Mboweni wished Kieswetter success, saying he expected him to act "without fear or favour" and "to restore and defend the integrity of SARS". 

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