Suspended SARS boss Tom Moyane's disciplinary hearing commences

Suspended SARS commissioner Tom Moyane. (Photo: Leon Sadiki, City Press)
Suspended SARS commissioner Tom Moyane. (Photo: Leon Sadiki, City Press)

The disciplinary hearing of suspended SARS chief Tom Moyane finally gets underway on Saturday, four months after he was removed from his job by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

On March 19 Ramaphosa suspended Moyane after Moyane refused to step down voluntary. The president said at the time in a letter he had “lost confidence in his ability to lead the South African Revenue Service".

"The disrepute in which you have brought SARS and the government as a whole and the risk to the national revenue fund are enormous," wrote Ramaphosa. 

At the start of May, Moyane was served with a notice of a disciplinary inquiry.

The suspended tax agency head, who has been replaced by Mark Kingon in an acting capacity, is facing four charges relating to misconduct and violation of his duties and responsibilities as SARS commissioner. 

Loss of confidence

A former national commissioner of Correctional Services, Moyane was in September 2014 appointed by ex-president Jacob Zuma to head the tax service. During his tenure a number of top officials resigned, and investigative units were shut down.

Ramaphosa, in his May letter, wrote that SARS under Moyane's leadership had been marker by a "deterioration in public confidence". 

Moyane also came under heavy criticism for his handling of a probe into top tax official Jonas Makwakwa, who was reinstated at the agency in late 2017 after being suspended for a year following allegations of corruption and money-laundering. 

Makwakwa eventually resigned for good in mid-March for "personal reasons". He is still the subject of a criminal probe by the Hawks.

In March, Moyane and other SARS officials appeared before a parliamentary committee to give a report on allegations of corruptions at the institution.

The charges against Moyane that will be at heard at the disciplinary inquiry include the mishandling of a Financial Intelligence Centre report into suspicious transactions into Makwakwa's bank accounts, the making of unauthorised bonus payments, misleading Parliament, and ordering an employee to feign illness to not give evidence during an investigation.

Moyane has waged a relentless battle against the procedure of the disciplinary process, which he slammed as “unfair” and “unconstitutional” – as it deprived him of a chance to present oral evidence. He has denied the charges.

Earlier this month Moyane's lawyer Eric Mabuza said that if his client is found not guilty at an upcoming disciplinary hearing, it would be "logical" for him to return to SARS and "serve the nation".

Impartial judge

Ramaphosa initially appointed retired Constitutional Court Judge Kate O’Regan to head the disciplinary inquiry, but Moyane objected to her involvement, arguing that her links with non-profit advocacy group Corruption Watch meant she could not be impartial. Corruption Watch has been calling for Moyane’s removal from SARS. 

Ramaphosa capitulated to Moyane’s demand and replaced O’Regan with Advocate Azhar Bham. Speaking to media last week, Moyane’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza, said his client was “filled with confidence and hope that the process before Adv Bham… will be conducted with decency, fairness and human dignity”.

Moyane's role at SARS is also set to investigated in the Nugent Commission of Inquiry, which was appointed by Ramaphosa earlier in the year to probe tax administration and governance at SARS.

The inquiry started on June 26. Public hearings will resume in August.

Lawyers for Moyane had objected to the disciplinary process and the commission being conducted concurrently, demanding that either one or both of them be halted.

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