SARS building. Picture: Gallo Images
SARS building. Picture: Gallo Images

The SA Revenue Service (Sars) has suspended three executives who were among controversial former commissioner Tom Moyane’s close allies.

The suspended executives include Luther Lebelo, the man dubbed as Moyane’s “hitman” by witnesses at the commission of inquiry into tax administration and governance at Sars. The commission was chaired by retired judge Robert Nugent.  . 

Lebelo, the group executive of employee relations, Hlengani Mathebula, the chief officer of governance, international relations, strategy and communication, and Teboho Mokoena, the chief officer for human capital and development, were placed on suspension on Wednesday pending the outcome of a disciplinary process relating to “serious allegations” of misconduct, the tax agency said. 

In July 2018, Mokoena and Lebelo, two senior executives who were said to be loyal to Moyane, were moved back to the posts they had previously held at Sars.

This was one of the first acts by then acting commissioner Mark Kingon to address weaknesses at Sars.

Mokoena was hired by Moyane in 2016 during his four-year stint as the head of Sars that was cut short by his suspension in March 2018. In January 2018, Mokoena was appointed acting head of customs and excise after Jed Michelos left.

Lebelo, who was previously the acting chief officer for human capital and development, was shifted back to his previous post as the executive for employment relations.

Mathebula testified at the inquiry into Sars that he was forced by Moyane to sign off on investigations into officials who were investigating the illicit tobacco industry.

He said Moyane gave him a “hit list” of staff the former tax commissioner wanted suspended and replaced. Nugent, in his final report, was critical of Mathebula’s conduct during his time as head of enforcement.

Sars on Wednesday said the suspension of the three was part of an ongoing review of the entire Sars leadership by commissioner Edward Kieswetter in terms of good governance and in response to the Nugent report. 

Nugent found that Moyane lacked integrity and had colluded with consultants Bain & Co to implement a restructuring that severely weakened the tax agency. Moyane was fired in November 2018 in line with recommendations of the inquiry.

Kieswetter took up the position of commissioner in May 2019 and has been working to clean up the tax agency.

Sars said the suspension of the three executives did not amount to finding any wrongdoing by the three. A determination in this regard would only be made when the disciplinary process was completed.

The tax agency said it would not comment further on the matter. 

quintalg@businesslive.co.za