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Staff complained about Jonas Makwakwa's 'inordinate' power in SARS

Jonas Makwakwa.
Jonas Makwakwa.

SARS former second in command Jonas Makwakwa interfered in the VIP taxpayer unit‚ until it was shifted to report to him as a result of the restructuring of the tax agency‚ the commission of inquiry chaired by retired judge Robert Nugent heard on Thursday.

Former group executive for corporate legal affairs Makungu Mthebule described how Makwakwa had an inordinate amount of power in the institution under Tom Moyane‚ so much so that she complained about his "dictatorship".

Mthebule was appointed to act in former executive Ivan Pillay' s position after his suspension in 2014‚ a division which also ran the "restricted taxpayer unit" or VIP unit at SARS. This unit oversaw the taxes of prominent taxpayers such as politicians‚ judges‚ the head of the army and other prominent persons.

She told the commission that Makwakwa would call and sms her‚ instructing her to do certain things for certain high profile and prominent tax payers. The identity of tax payers are not permitted to be made known in the inquiry.

She stated that he did not just ask her to act on certain taxpayer matters but told her specifically what to do: for example writing off tax or penalties.

"He did it with a certain level of force‚" she said. She was asked whether this was common at SARS‚ to which she responded: "It's not a normal query... definitely‚ he told me what to do‚ to write of things especially for one particular taxpayer."

She also told the inquiry that her staff in the VIP division also complained to her that Makwakwa had sought to interfere in VIP taxpayer matters they were handling.

She had refused to assist him and instructed her staff to do the same. She did not understand why Makwakwa was interfering in matters in her department.

Outside of Moyane‚ Makwakwa was also the only member of the SARS leadership structure‚ the executive committee‚ who was privy to the organisational redesign conducted by consultant Bain.

He was described as close to the organisation's boss Moyane. Moyane is facing a disciplinary inquiry with charges relating to his handling of allegations of suspicious and unusual transactions into Makwakwa's bank accounts‚ amounting to some R1.2-million as identified by the Financial Intelligence Centre.

Moyane shielded Makwakwa‚ conducting an investigation designed to ensure that he was cleared of all charges. Makwakwa did not answer to the allegations but he was permitted to return to work in November last year. He resigned in March when it emerged that he appointed a debt collector at SARS who was among the depositors of cash into his account named in the FIC report.

The inquiry into the South African Reserve Bank kicked off on June 26 2018. Suspended SARS boss Tom Moyane is accused of costing SARS, and South Africa, at least R142-billion.

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