Newly appointed South African Revenue Service (SARS) Commissioner Edward Kieswetter has sent a strong warning to tax dodgers, saying the revenue collector would work hard to collect each and every cent due to the national fiscus.
Kieswetter, who made the remark during his first media briefing where he was announced as the new commissioner on Wednesday, will begin his five-year stint on 1 May.
Speaking on his plans for SARS, Kieswetter said he would immediately internally focus on rebuilding the confidence and trust of employees and improve revenue collection rates.
“Of importance is to immediately address the deficit in revenue to ensure that the work that Mark [Kingon] has done together with the team [is accelerated]. This is to ensure that the target the Finance Minister gives, we can also give and deliver confidence and ensure that we leave no stone unturned and ensure that each and every cent that is due is collected. And those who think they were on a tax holiday over the past few years, the holiday has ended,” he said.
The Commissioner said SARS was blessed with thousands of honest working men and women.
“Many of them make this machinery of SARS tick and they have over the last three years dealt with negative press about their employer. We need to take them back into our confidence and inspire them to be the best that they can be in the interest of SARS and the country.”
He added that there is a direct correlation between the confidence the public has in SARS and the level of compliance and collection.
“Everything ends and begins with people and that’s why I share with you the things I need to address internally and externally and restore confidence with the people of South Africa.”
Kieswetter said he would also focus his efforts on rebuilding the revenue collector’s leadership team.
“This is not a one-man show. This is work that requires a strong leadership team and a committed workforce. We are ready and committed to do the work that is required. We are thankful we have the support of the Minister and the President.”
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni thanked acting SARS Commissioner Mark Kingon, saying he had managed to steady the ship for the past year.
“Government would really like to thank you for that, a very rare show of patriotism,” he said.
National Treasury said it was confident that the selection process that was undertaken had integrity and all necessary disclosures were made and no conflicts of interest were identified throughout the process.
The appointment was in line with the recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance by SARS chaired by retired Judge Robert Nugent.
Among other things, the Nugent Commission recommended that the “candidate or candidates for appointment should submit to a private interview by a panel of four or more members selected by the President”, that the panel should make recommendations to the President and that the recommendations of the panel “should be made public”.
National Treasury said Kieswetter emerged as the strongest candidate, based on his past experience as Deputy Commissioner for SARS between 2004 and 2009, and his subsequent track record of transformative leadership and his experience of turning around a large institution.