'Daunting task' lies ahead, says new Sars commissioner

28 March 2019 - 08:43 By Nico Gous
Edward Kieswetter will head Sars for five years, starting on May 1.
Edward Kieswetter will head Sars for five years, starting on May 1.
Image: Simon Mathebula

Taking over the helm of Sars will be a “daunting task”, newly-appointed commissioner Edward Kieswetter said on Thursday morning.

“Naturally one enters into the job with a mixture of excitement, but also an awareness of the fact that this is a daunting task that will require all the help I can get,” Kieswetter said in an interview with SAfm.

“You can understand that during a time when the organisation that you’re employed with is in the media all the time and with negative news, eventually it would affect the morale and confidence and pride of the people.”

Kieswetter said there was  correlation between tax revenue and trust in the institution.

Finance minister Tito Mboweni announced Kieswetter’s appointment on Wednesday, effective from May 1, for a five-year term.

National Treasury said in a statement that Kieswetter “emerged as the strongest candidate” from shortlisted applicants Mark Kingon, Nathaniel Mabetwa, Sunita Manik, Gene Ravele and Nazrien Kader.

The EFF on Wednesday questioned the interview process, calling it “nepotistic” and “corrupt”. It threatened to challenge the process in court.

An interview panel was appointed in February to recommend a new Sars boss to President Cyril Ramaphosa. Former finance minister Trevor Manuel chaired the panel.

“It has now emerged that the reason [for the secrecy] is that one of the candidates who was interviewed, and favoured by the panel, is a dodgy character called Edward Kieswetter, who is not just a relative of Trevor Manuel, but a close business associate and companion,” alleged EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

He charged that Kieswetter had earlier been "unlawfully" appointed by Manuel as deputy Sars commissioner during his stint as finance minister.

“The EFF is profusely opposed to the imposition of a secretly assessed candidate by conflicted individuals, and we will do everything in our power to stop and reverse the appointment of Kieswetter as Sars commissioner.”

He added: “A secretly chosen Sars commissioner with clear connection to the white capitalist establishment will not maximally collect taxes.”

Manuel recused himself from Kieswetter's interview because they are “still on friendly terms”.

“The chair of the panel [Manuel] declared that one of the candidates [Kieswetter] worked under him in a past capacity, and he is still on friendly terms with the candidate,” a report given to Mboweni reads.

“The chair proposed to be an observer only during the interview of this candidate, and did not pose any questions. The panel did not view the relationship as a conflict of interest, but accepted his recusal during the interview.”

The ANC’s Enoch Godongwana said: “Those who are opposing him are actually scared of him because their taxes are not in order.

“Clearly Sars has gone through a reputational risk, its reputation has gone down. As a tax authority, it needs credibility. His first task is to bring back its reputation so taxpayers can have confidence in it.”