Newly appointed South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Edward Kieswetter says it is a privilege to be tasked with heading up the revenue collection agency, and that he is fully aware of the daunting task ahead of him.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian shortly after his appointment was announced in a statement from the national treasury, Kieswetter said he was honoured to be asked to head up a state institution so critical to the running of the country.
Kieswetter is no stranger to Sars.
He was the deputy commissioner from 2004 to 2009 — a key period of growth in the institution — and was at the time responsible for establishing the large business centre, according to his biography from treasury.
He also played a key role in developing SARS e-filing technology.
He will return to Sars on May 1, when his five-year term at the helm of the tax agency officially commences.
Kieswetter said it is critical to provide “inspirational and ethical” leadership at Sars in order to restore public trust in the institution.
Sars has experienced a torrid five years, beginning with allegations of an alleged “rogue unit” followed by the purge of senior staff shortly after the appointment by former president Jacob Zuma of erstwhile commissioner Tom Moyane.
During Moyane’s tenure, Sars was restructured in a manner which neutralised its effectiveness, losing its international standing and consistently failing to meet revenue targets culminating in a R142-billion hole in tax collection.
President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed a commission of inquiry to look into the situation at Sars last year and Kieswetter’s appointment comes as a direct result of the findings and recommendations by the commission.
The commission of inquiry into governance and administration at Sars, chaired by retired judge Robert Nugent, found that Sars was incapacitated by a far-reaching restructuring conducted under Moyane and facilitated by Boston-based consultants, Bain & Company.
The restructuring process culminated in key units at the tax agency neutralised and even decimated. Skilled managers were shifted to supernumerary positions, with many eventually leaving the tax agency for the private sector.
The large business centre, the compliance unit, the illicit economy unit as well as the legal unit were among those weakened or completely dissolved during the restructuring.
Acting commissioner Mark Kingon has revived the critical large business centre as well as the illicit economy unit.