Adrian Lackay. Picture: TYRONE ARTHUR
Adrian Lackay. Picture: TYRONE ARTHUR

The SA Revenue Service (Sars) has withdrawn civil proceedings it brought against its former spokesperson Adrian Lackay for speaking to committees in parliament about problems at the organisation.

In May 2015 Lackay was served with a combined summons in which the tax agency and its suspended commissioner, Tom Moyane, claimed R12m in damages.

Lackay has testified at the Nugent inquiry into Sars, where he said, again, that his working life was made "intolerable" when Moyane ran a "disinformation campaign", making false statements to the media without his knowledge.

The damages claims followed a submission he made to the chair of the standing committee on finance and the chair of the joint standing committee on intelligence in parliament in March 2015.

Lackay resigned as Sars spokesperson in March 2015 and is now employed in the same position by the department of public enterprises.

At the two parliamentary committees, Lackay said that a disinformation campaign was being advanced by Sars and the Sunday Times newspaper, following Moyane’s appointment as Sars commissioner in September 2014. This campaign alleged that there was a "covert intelligence, rogue" and ostensibly illegal and unlawful investigative unit in the organisation.

He also told parliament that to his knowledge, these allegations — including claims that the "rogue unit bugged" the home of former president Jacob Zuma, ran a brothel and "spied" on politicians and taxpayers — were not true.

He was also being sued for saying that Moyane suspended the Sars executive committee six weeks after assuming office, on the strength of the Sunday Times headlines.

Lackay told parliament that Moyane’s actions caused some of the most experienced senior executives at the agency to resign, which deprived the institution of critical skills.

He said that an atmosphere of fear was being instilled under Moyane, and Sars employees were effectively being "muzzled, bullied, threatened, suspended, and their tenure at Sars made unbearable".

Lackay concluded in his presentations that the destabilisation of Sars would lead to shortfalls in revenue collection that would pose risks to the fiscus in the future.

"Regrettably, the parliamentary committees chose not to consider or entertain the substance of my submission," Lackay said in a statement on Sunday.

"Instead, Dr Dion George, a former DA member of the standing committee on finance, released my letter to the media, and Sars and Moyane responded by instituting civil proceedings against me."

Lackay said that it was "regrettable" that many of the concerns he raised seemed to have materialised, as evidence and testimony before the Nugent commission of inquiry into Sars have shown.

The Sunday Times said that it did not want to respond to the allegations that Lackay made against the newspaper in 2015.

Lackay thanked several legal and civil society organisations for their support and "a growing network of progressive public sector employees who have mobilised themselves since 2016 to speak out and fight against abuse, intimidation, injustice and victimisation within public institutions".

"Due to the conduct of Sars and Moyane, considerable damage was caused not only to the institution but to the careers and reputations of many former and current Sars colleagues as well," he said.

"In particular, my former Sars colleagues Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg are still being persecuted.

"They still face criminal charges based on the allegations of a ‘rogue unit’, despite such allegations being extensively disproved," Lackay said.

"They need our continued support and vigilance to ensure that justice also prevails for them and their families."