Consultancy charged R200m for 'failed' work at Sars

An ICT consultancy hired by SARS has admitted that their services were not useful
An ICT consultancy hired by SARS has admitted that their services were not useful
Image: Muntu Vilakazi

IT consultancy Gartner has admitted that the R200m work it did for Sars did not deliver value for money for the key state institution.

Gartner head of public-sector consulting Michael Lithgow appeared before the Sars commission of inquiry‚ chaired by retired judge Robert Nugent‚ on Tuesday and gave a lengthy overview of Gartner’s work at the tax body. The contract with Gartner was also shown to be illegal.

Gartner was brought in‚ in a dubious process‚ after now-suspended commissioner Tom Moyane halted the Sars modernisation programme in December 2014‚ just three months after he stepped into the position.

The Nugent inquiry heard evidence over the past two weeks of the breakdown of the Sars digital infrastructure since halting the modernisation process‚ and since Gartner stepped in to implement a new IT framework in a three-phase process.

However‚ on Tuesday‚ Lithgow complained that nothing Gartner had recommended was implemented at Sars. Gartner was paid R151m for phase two of the project‚ which was essentially supposed to be the implementation phase.

‘‘I accept we failed because nothing we did was implemented‚ which for me is distressing. My confidence that even 10% of what we recommended was done is low‚’’ Lithgow said‚ adding that while he could justify Sars spending R200m on the work‚ it did not deliver value for money. ‘‘Yes‚ as a professional‚ I am upset that the work did not deliver what we had hoped.’’

Lithgow largely blamed the Sars leadership at the time for this. He said he wrote a letter to Moyane and ‘‘made it clear that unless we had strong‚ committed leadership‚ the transformation process would not work’’. He said there was resistance to change within Sars‚ and there were also ‘‘fiefdoms and factions’’ and people ‘‘would not co-operate’’.

He described one incident in which the Gartner team leader’s Facebook page was hacked and anti-Jacob Zuma posts were made on his timeline‚ dating back some years. This was reported to Moyane‚ with the Gartner team leader being called racist and opposed to the now-former president. Moyane grilled Lithgow about it and Gartner launched an investigation‚ which found that the Facebook page was hacked.

Lithgow said that at that time‚ all other work for Gartner in SA stopped. He detailed Gartner’s criticism of the former modernisation programme‚ saying a lot of money was spent and the consultancy could not‚ at the time‚ find sign-offs for it.

Earlier evidence at the inquiry showed that an investigation by Grant Thornton was launched into the contracts for the modernisation programme — dubbed ‘‘project lion’’ — at a cost of R12m to Sars. The investigation is understood to have not found evidence of wrongdoing in the modernisation contracts.

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