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Taxman Ivan Pillay battles Sars for his job

South African Revenue Services (Sars) deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, who has been suspended for allegedly setting up a “rogue unit” within the tax office, has taken his fight to overturn his suspension to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Like suspended Hawks head Anwa Dramat, Pillay was allegedly investigating cases linked to figures associated with President Jacob Zuma.

Pillay wants the CCMA to decide on the fairness of his suspension. He has also applied for compensation for what the Labour Court found was an unlawful suspension.

A day after Labour Court Judge Annelie Basson ordered that he be reinstated immediately, he was suspended again, along with other top managers. There was concern from Sars that he would tamper with evidence.

Newly appointed commissioner Tom Moyane said an independent panel had found that the unit, known as the National Research Group, had been trying to play an intelligence role. 

But, after reading the report by a panel headed by advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, Basson found that Pillay was not under investigation and adverse findings had not been made against him. She said Sars had not followed procedure because they had not provided Pillay with a suspension notice.

Pillay and Sars were in conciliation discussions for the whole day on Thursday at the CCMA.

Unit was suppose to ‘limit’ investigations
Pillay faces a number of charges. Among them are that he established, or recommended, or was instrumental in setting up a covert intelligence unit in Sars, and that he knew the unit was unconstitutional and infringed on the powers of state intelligence.

He is also accused of fraudulently contriving his early retirement, allegedly with the knowledge of then finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

Approached for comment, Pillay said that he was not allowed to speak to the media. He was given a suspension letter on December 19, which said he had until January 12 to show why he should not be suspended.

Sars has had to withdraw charges against strategic and planning head Peter Richer, pending further investigation into the unit.

Allegations about the unit had been circulating for some time. Pillay insists that the unit had been approved at the highest level.

In 2007 Gordhan allegedly approved a request to fund special capabilities in the National Intelligence Agency to partner with Sars. The minister is believed to have known that Sars on its own lacked the mandate or capability to perform such a function.

The proviso, however, was that Sars would limit its investigations to taxpayers and customs and excise clients.

The CCMA hearing was adjourned until January 28. It was decided on Thursday to follow this route rather than going straight to arbitration.

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