Edward Kieswetter. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Edward Kieswetter. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Edward Kieswetter, who has been at the helm of Sars for only two months, has set up a focused revenue recovery campaign in a bid to, as far as possible, achieve the revenue estimate of R1.422-trillion for this fiscal year.

The Sars commissioner told parliament’s standing committee on finance on Thursday that the institution was “resolutely” committed to the estimate and would work hard to deliver it, despite it being much harder to achieve because of the prevailing economic context and the internal challenges within Sars.

In a briefing to the committee on Thursday, Kieswetter said the revenue recovery campaign would identify revenue leakage; identify and pursue delinquent taxpayers and practitioners; and address compliance.

He has also set up a focused capacity to address the illicit economy, which not only includes the tobacco industry but also mining and minerals. It will also focus on customs surveillance at ports of entry.

Kieswetter firmly rejects the idea of clandestine surveillance by Sars. “Nothing we do can be clandestine. Everything must be above board.” 

Kieswetter told MPs that a large part of his first two months in office had been spent rebuilding the organisation, which was decimated by the reign of former commissioner Tom Moyane and which contributed to a decline in public and staff confidence.

The Nugent commission of inquiry into Sars identified a massive failure in governance and integrity and that the operating model proposed by financial advisory company Bain deliberately sought to render the organisation incapable of fully serving its mandate. The large business centre — now re-established — was dismantled, as well as the compliance unit, the integrity unit and the capacity to deal with the illicit economy.

Kieswetter said there is still a lot of work to do to rebuild Sars.

He described the low morale among staff and that improving it is key to rebuilding confidence. This includes addressing the climate of fear and intimidation, palpable racial tension, concerning levels of trauma and hurt, staff being disconnected from leadership with high levels of distrust, and concerns about budget cuts.

“Leadership contributed to the prevailing culture,” Kieswetter said, noting that there was a low level of accountability of the previous leadership.