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

A few years ago, in an interview with this magazine, Edward Kieswetter went into great detail about his love of building. "I trained as an engineer and worked on various construction sites, and when it comes to designing and building a structure from scratch, I’m proud to say there’s nothing I can’t do, except plastering," he said.

Which is just as well, given his appointment as the new commissioner of the SA Revenue Service (Sars) from May 1 — an institution in need of being rebuilt from scratch, if ever there was one.

This was underscored by the fact that this week, Sars confirmed a R57.4bn shortfall in its tax collections for this financial year. It collected R1.28-trillion against the initial estimate of R1.3-trillion.

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If anyone can fix this, Kieswetter, 60, has a better chance than most. His career wound from Eskom to FirstRand to Alexander Forbes, where he was CEO. In between, he was a deputy commissioner at Sars, in charge of the large business unit — one of the many arms of the tax service demolished by Tom Moyane during his disastrous four years in charge.

Speaking to journalists this week, Kieswetter referred to the "unfortunate tragedy of the last four years", saying he is going to "re-engage the people". It’s a good start — but he’ll need the wider economy to play ball too if tax collections are to recover with any real gusto.