/ 23 January 2017

Former Sars spokesperson says Tom Moyane accused him of conspiracy

Sars states that because Tom Moyane was not directly involved in the adjudication of the debt collection bids
Tom Moyane has requested a halt to Ramaphosa’s implementation of further recommendations by retired judge Robert Nugent. (David Harrison/M&G)

Former South African Revenue Service spokesperson Adrian Lackay today told the Commission  for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) that Sars commissioner Tom Moyane had accused him of conspiracy.

He said Moyane had not given him any information so that he could answer media queries about a so-called “rogue unit” at Sars.

And when a team of senior Sars employees attempted to put together a file explaining where allegations of a rogue unit had emanated from after a Sunday Times article, Moyane sent an SMS asking: “Why are you conspiring against the commissioner?”

“It [the SMS] indicated that the commissioner lent some form of tacit approval to the allegation that a rogue intelligence unit existed at Sars,” Lackay said .

He argued that his working conditions became unbearable amid allegations by Moyane that an illegal spy unit had been set up by senior officials.

Lackay, who worked for Sars for 11 years, said he was forced to leave after it became “untenable” to associate himself with the goings-on at the revenue service. He resigned in February 2015.

‘Didn’t appreciate this effort’
On his first day of testimony, Lackay indicated that by November 2015, at the height of the media storm around the so-called rogue unit, his relationship with Moyane had broken down.

Lackay said that when Moyane was first appointed as commissioner he was welcomed into the tax revenue service and there was no hostility toward him.

After the first story in the Sunday Times appeared naming a rogue intelligence unit at the tax agency, Lackay said the communications team and senior investigators were concerned about how the commissioner would interpret the story and a team set to work on a briefing note for Moyane to apprise him of all the allegations.

“To our great surprise, we were informed that Mr Moyane did not appreciate this effort,” Lackay said.

He said Moyane sent the SMS to Dr Georgiou Radesich, the group executive of governance and risk.

Lackay said until this point, his office was located near the commissioner’s office, but in November 2014 Moyane moved his office to a different building, Brooklyn Bridge. He said his interactions with Moyane during this time were mainly through email and SMS.

‘A time of heightened stress’
“I recall that period as being the time when my working relationship with Tom Moyane really broke down,” Lackay said.

“It was a time of heightened stress at Sars.”

Lackay said he had received media queries and requests to be on radio shows, which he had to turn down because of the lack of response from Moyane.

On November 27 2014, Lackay said he got another enquiry from the Sunday Times about the Sikhakhane report. He responded that the report was still being investigated, not being aware that the report had been finalised and had been handed to Moyane.

Lackay said because of the lack of information from Moyane, he had made a statement to the media that was not true.

Email not taken kindly
“It indicated to me that information was being kept away from me. I didn’t know why and that was a cause for anxiety in my own mind regarding my position. I had issued an incorrect statement. It is apparent the journalists knew more about the Sikhakhane panel and its findings than I did as a [Sars] spokesperson,” Lackay said.

Lackay said he decided to write an email to Moyane indicating that the leaks in the paper seemed to be emanating internally from Sars employees, that it was putting the institution at risk and there should be a probe into this.

A special executive committee meeting was called and Lackay was invited to attend. He said Moyane announced that he would be cancelling the meeting because of news headlines.

Lackay said Moyane also said he “does not take kindly to receiving emails from colleagues who accuse Sars of leaking information to the media and requesting investigations”.

Lackay believed this was a reference to his email.

His testimony will continue tomorrow. – News24