EFF joins outcry against 'secret' process to appoint new SARS commissioner

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has joined the chorus of those objecting to the process of appointing a new SA Revenue Service boss.

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 appoints 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.

In the view of the EFF, the "secret" interview process that has been conducted since, goes "against the spirit of transparency and openness".

The EFF says it plans to write a "legal letter" to Ramaphosa and Mboweni, demanding the disclosure of all processes that were followed in the process of selecting a SARS commissioner.

Furthermore, the EFF says it will explore legal options to invalidate what it claims would be the unlawful appointment of a SARS commissioner.

The EFF demands that the process to select a SARS commissioner should be restarted and be opened to public scrutiny.

"This should be so because a commissioner of the ultimate revenue collector in South Africa should be beyond reproach and must stand public scrutiny," reads the EFF statement.

Last week the Black Management Forum (BMF) expressed concern with what it deems to be a "rushed and guarded" recruitment process in appointing a new SARS commissioner.

"It remains unclear to the general public as to who the shortlisted candidates are and when and where interviews will be or are taking place," the BMF said in a statement.

The process of finding a new commissioner for SARS kicked off with an advertisement in the Sunday Times in mid-December last year. The closing date for applications was January 18.

Ahead of the National Budget earlier this year, tax experts at Mazars said, in their view, SARS will continue to struggle with compliance challenges until a permanent commissioner is appointed.

Fin24's inquiries about progress with the process of appointing the new SARS commissioner was referred to Treasury by the Presidency.

Treasury referred Fin24 on Wednesday to a written answer that was provided to Parliament earlier in March in which it said it was made clear that the president appoints the SARS commissioner in terms of the SARS Act.

"Though not obligated to do so by law, the president followed the recommendations of the Nugent Commission into SARS in order to appoint the new commissioner in an open, fair and transparent manner," reads the statement.

It explains that the minister of finance is overseeing the process and will submit the panel's recommendations to the president for his consideration.

It also goes on to say that the panel is advisory in nature and is required only to evaluate the applicants' eligibility for the position given the criteria set out in the advertisement and to shortlist and interview candidates and make non-prescriptive recommendations to the president.

The panel is not making the decision as to whom to appoint.

The reply further states that, when appointing the panel, the minister took into account the need for balanced experience and representation in terms of the country's demographics. It added that all members of the panel as well as the candidates for the position of SARS commissioner had to disclose any possible conflicts of interest.

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