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Moyane admits he used 'rogue unit' to disband Sars executive committee

Former tax boss Tom Moyane denied during state capture commission testimony that he sponsored and fuelled the 'rogue unit narrative' to deal with his opponents — but says this was used to disband the tax authority's Exco.

26 May 2021 - 19:21 By mawande amashabalala
Former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane said he did not 'birth the rogue unit narrative' but insisted that 'the rogue unit existed'.
Former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane said he did not 'birth the rogue unit narrative' but insisted that 'the rogue unit existed'.
Image: Reuben Goldberg

Former Sars boss Tom Moyane on Wednesday conceded that the basis for his dramatic dissolution of the organisation's executive committee in October 2014 was inspired by the so-called “rogue unit”.

Reports of the existence of the unit emerged barely a week after Moyane took charge at the tax collector.

But Moyane denied being the source of the rogue unit media reports, though he would later use this narrative to disband the Sars executive committee (Exco) only two weeks into the job.

Moyane, who was testifying at the state capture commission on Wednesday, is also accused of pushing out half a dozen Sars officials using the rogue unit as a defence. 

The unit, officially named the high-risk investigations unit, was established by Sars to pursue big fish tax evaders. Moyane admitted that it was rogue unit reports in the media that caused him to disband the Sars Exco. According to him, when the news of the existence of the unit broke he first deferred questions to Sars managers since he was new at the organisation — but said he was not pleased with the story that came out. To this end, he summoned the Exco to a meeting to demand answers.

“A week later, again [media] questions were fielded through Mr [Adrian] Lackay. Guess what, Sars prostitutes, blah, blah, blah. I was livid about this, taking into account that I had raised this issue with the minister,” said Moyane.

“That week the minister was in Durban. We agreed to meet at the airport to discuss this because it was a worrisome matter. 

“I said to the minister I will talk to Exco and say we do not have to have meetings in the manner in which we are. For the moment we will suspend [Exco] but operations will continue. I communicated my displeasure. That was in October. By December we had reinstituted the Exco.”

Moyane said he was not the one who birthed the rogue unit narrative, but insisted that “the rogue unit existed”.

He claims that he believes it existed because it was in 2015 that two members who worked for the unit confessed to him that it was engaged in unlawful things, such as bugging offices.

Said Moyane: “I was approached by the members of the unit who told me things they did that were outside the ambit of a tax collector. The rogue unit existed unlawfully. What is the lawfulness of what happened when they bugged government entities, that is the matter I am raising here. It is a reality of fact.”

He was unbothered when it was put to him that the courts have pronounced that the unit was legal and above board. 

“If it is lawful, then it means there are things that are unlawful but become lawful,” he said.

Moyane also denied using the rogue unit narrative to purge Sars officials with whom he did not agree.

“I did not run Sars on the basis of the rogue unit. I ran Sars on the basis of what needed to be done. The rogue unit was a side show, a distraction,” he said.