SARS employees were scared of victimisation...until Moyane was removed - Nugent report

The Nugent Commission of Inquiry was hampered considerably at the outset by fear amongst employees of the SA Revenue Service (SARS) of reprisals and victimisation if they were seen to be co-operating with the Commission.

This was symptomatic of what has occurred at SARS, according to the 200-page final report handed over to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday.

"A significant number of employees of SARS, who were identified as possibly having information relevant to the inquiry, were fearful of disclosure, other than under conditions of confidentiality," the final report states.

"And in some cases (they) were fearful even of being seen at the premises of the Commission, for fear of repercussions if the former Commissioner of SARS (Tom Moyane), who was then under suspension, were again to assume office, or from senior management of SARS."

While some such employees were willing to present evidence openly, notwithstanding anxiety on their part, others refused point blank to do so. Written submissions, letters and affidavits from employees were also received either anonymously or under conditions of confidentiality for the same reason, according to the final report.

Some months into the inquiry there was, however, a "noticeable shift" in the attitude of employees and the atmosphere in which the inquiry was conducted, with many more coming forward more willingly to proffer evidence.

According to the final report this was partly due to "an increasing anger" amongst employees at the revelations of what was done to SARS and themselves during the period under inquiry.

"A palpable shift occurred when (Moyane) was removed from office, after which information flowed in readily," states the final report.

The report agrees with the view of Nishana Gosai, who left Sars in 2016 that one should not overlook the lessons to be learnt from what happened at SARS. Gosai was manager of the transfer pricing (TP) unit at the Large Business Centre of SARS.

Gosai said earlier that what has happened to SARS should never be allowed to happen again.

"I think a lot of people have suffered. It's broken people and it's broken the organisation and people need healing. People who were technicians, who were just interested in working for the higher purpose, and delivering and just enjoying their jobs and I was one of those people, we
got caught up in a political narrative that we shouldn't have been part of in the first place," Gosai had stated.

"And I think it’s a lesson for us that we should never be here again because the only people who have suffered is the country, the people of South Africa."

The final Nugent report states that "the failure of integrity and governance at SARS, soundly evidenced alone by the change over four years, has certainly compromised the performance of its core function of collecting tax, to the detriment of the country at large".

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