Fear and loathing at SARS
SARS spokesman Luther Lebelo went on Radio 702 on Friday to rubbish media reports and clear up perceptions over SARS and its Commissioner‚ Tom Moyane.
Lebelo‚ who becomes increasingly agitated as the interview with Stephen Grootes progresses‚ was vehement in defending Moyane over a trip to Dubai in December 2015 and also speaks about the departure of SARS CFO Matsobane Matlwa on Wednesday last week.
The Times reported on Wednesday the trip coincided with the presence of several key Gupta associates as well as the Gupta brothers‚ Atul‚ Ajay and Rajesh‚ in Dubai.
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Moyane and SARS have categorically denied that Moyane spent Christmas in Dubai‚ but that he was in Portugal and only returned to Dubai on December 29 2015 where he was on holiday with his family until January 8 2016.
The Gupta brothers were in Dubai during that time‚ travel records from leaked emails show. But Lebelo again emphatically denied that Moyane has ever met any member of the Gupta family.
He asked the media to “stick to the facts”.
Lebelo also tells Grootes that SARS was aware Matlwa was going to resign as he indicated his intention to do so nine months ago‚ in December 2016.
He then says media reports Matlwa was handed a letter of suspension were “all lies”.
But Lebelo does not once mention that a personal grievance was filed against Matlwa on July 21 2017 wherein a female SARS official in his office accused him of bullying‚ being unprofessional and sexist among other charges.
He also omits the fact that a disciplinary process was instituted against Matlwa‚ who himself admitted to the Daily Maverick he had been interviewed regarding the allegations.
This omission suggests that Lebelo might have been trying to mislead the public as far as the Matlwa issue is concerned.
But the devil may be in the details.
In documents seen by The Times‚ the female staff member mentions that Matlwa “constantly badmouths the Commissioner‚ other chiefs and GEs (group executives)”.
This is possibly the only and best explanation currently available to explain why Matlwa was acted against within weeks of the complaint being lodged‚ while Moyane sat on a report over SARS chief officer for business and individual taxes Jonas Makwakwa for months.
Makwakwa was only suspended after news of possibly irregular cash payments into his bank account was reported.
But‚ in recent weeks‚ Moyane has been on the hunt to clamp down on leaks from the heart of SARS.
A few weeks ago‚ news of a R70-million VAT refund paid to the Gupta family raised serious questions which SARS has refused to answer‚ except to say the payment was in no way irregular.
Moyane allegedly intervened in this payment after SARS staff refused to process it. Only a very few people in SARS would have had sight of the payment‚ resulting in only a very few possible sources that could have leaked it to the media.
Is Matlwa’s departure‚ whether he resigned of his own volition or was pushed with a suspension letter‚ the result of a Commissioner trying to plug the holes? Or is the complaint filed against him by a colleague the perfect cover to cut off any loose ends‚ or a legitimate complaint that came as a great convenience to anyone trying to sweep serious wrongdoing under the carpet?
The Times has also recently reported that SARS is monitoring emailed communication by staff.
If you tie all of these factors together‚ it would appear the current climate at SARS is one of fear and loathing.
In the coming week‚ more pieces of the SARS puzzle will be turned over‚ and The Times will be there to put it all together.