Adrian Lackay. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Adrian Lackay. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

Former South African Revenue Service (SARS) spokesman Adrian Lackay’s hearing at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) got off to a tense start on Monday, with counsel for his erstwhile employer accusing him of abusing the process.

Lackay left SARS in February 2015 in the wake of the rogue unit scandal and is now claiming constructive dismissal, saying his resignation was forced because his continued employment became intolerable following Tom Moyane’s appointment as commissioner.

Lackay wants the CCMA to order SARS to pay him 12 months’ salary in compensation.

But there was an argument about what evidence could be placed before the arbitrator before evidence even began. As a result, arbitration was postponed for arbitrator Joyce Nkopane to give a written ruling.

The rogue unit scandal follows a series of media reports claiming there was a "covert" or "rogue" investigative unit in SARS that broke the law in how it went about its work. Much of what was reported was later acknowledged to be unfounded.

However, a SARS-appointed panel chaired by Muzi Sikhakhane, SC, found the unit was unlawfully established.

Paul Pretorius, SC, Lackay’s counsel, said at the arbitration that the conduct of some senior SARS officials towards Lackay made it impossible for him to do his job and that the former spokesman had been sidelined from important media events.

Lackay was, for example, kept in the dark when former acting commissioner Ivan Pillay and former head of the high-risk investigation unit, known now as the rogue unit, Johann van Loggerenberg, were suspended.

Wisani Sibuyi, SARS’s counsel, said the tax authority planned to bring evidence that would show Lackay had left voluntarily and amicably.

Sibuyi made an application to exclude certain documents from evidence, saying they were irrelevant and a waste of time. He said these documents related to the so-called rogue unit and had nothing to do with whether Lackay had been constructively dismissed.

He accused Lackay of having an ulterior motive to clear his name in relation to the rogue unit and this was an abuse of the CCMA process. He said it was not for the commission to decide whether the findings of the Sikhakhane report were correct.

But Pretorius said the history and the documents were relevant because they showed SARS was wrong to ignore the advice of Lackay, who had managed the media fallout over allegations surrounding the unit.

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