SARS COMMISSIONER RESIGNS
By: Nontsikelelo Ngubane
Earlier this year, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan promised the media that he would institute a thorough investigation into allegations against the Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), Mr Oupa Magashula, that were published in the media on that day. Following these allegations, Magashula has resigned from his position this week.
The investigation was based on a telephone conversation during which Magashula was recorded offering a Chartered Accountant (CA) a job at SARS. The conversation was facilitated by a Timothy Marimuthu whom media reports allege had influence over Magashula. The effect of these reports was to raise questions about the integrity of staff recruitment processes at SARS.
Gordhan decided to appoint Justice Zak Yacoob and Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane’s mandated committee in order to protect the integrity of this vital fiscal institution and to reassure the public and ensure a rapid process of establishing the facts relating to the events as reported. The committee was to establish whether the event referred to in the reports had resulted in any breach of SARS processes or good governance.
The CA’s CV was not sent to SARS. An interview had been arranged, but the CA cancelled because she preferred a job based in Durban, which did not meet SARS requirements. Magashula interacted with Marimuthu more times than he had initially admitted to the Minister and the committee. He further told the Minister and the committee that he had no further communication with the CA. It later transpired that she had sent five emails to the Commissioner’s private SARS email address.
The committee found no evidence that Magashula committed a crime however he did admit to the Minister and the Deputy Minister of Finance that his actions constituted failure to promote and maintain a high standard of professionalism and ethical behaviour that is expected of the Commissioner of SARS.
“The South African Revenue Service is one of the key pillars of our fiscal order, and therefore, our democratic dispensation. It is an institution whose very foundations are built on the trust and credibility that South African taxpayers have in it. It is therefore critical that those to whom the stewardship of this vital fiscal institution is entrusted conduct themselves, during and after working hours, in a manner that ensures that they are above question,” said Gordhan.
The minister has decided to accept Magashula’s resignation that was handed over with immediate effect. Gordhan also instructed the Audit Committee of SARS to investigate whether the Commissioner’s behaviour breached any of the tax and customs processes at SARS. Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay has now been appointed as the current Commissioner until a new commissioner is appointed.