SARS commissioner Tom Moyane. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
SARS commissioner Tom Moyane. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

THE SA Revenue Service says it is not falling apart, staff morale is at its highest point and that key achievements under commissioner Tom Moyane included collecting an extra R12bn in taxes as a result of overhauling its operating model.

The tax authority was responding to media reports on the state of the organisation and controversy over suspicious payments into the bank account of its second in charge, Jonas Makwakwa, and his girlfriend and fellow employee Kelly-Anne Elskie.

SARS issued a statement on Friday, accusing the Sunday Times, Business Day and Financial Mail of being "unrelenting in their negative coverage of the organisation" and saying the publications did not want to "allow a legitimate process instituted by the commissioner" on Makwakwa to follow due process.

This was after Moyane waited four months before acting against Makwakwa and did so after the Sunday Times reported on the issue.

In its latest issue, The Financial Mail, citing anonymous sources, reported that Moyane had shown a Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) report to Makwakwa, who gave it to his attorneys.

The lawyers then wrote to the FIC, asking a string of questions. These included asking for the identities of the analysts who compiled the report, whether they could provide clearance certificates from state security, which laws the FIC had used to subpoena video footage from the ATMs and inside banks where the Makwakwa deposits were allegedly made.

Moyane suspended Makwakwa last week, pending the outcome of an internal investigation conducted by international law firm Hogan Lovells. SARS later declined to answer questions on the matter.

In its statement on Friday, SARS said that now that "due process that can stand judicial review is being followed in the suspension of (Makwakwa) … the commissioner is, once again, being castigated".

"SARS requests all parties concerned to allow and respect all legal processes to take their due course. No previous SARS commissioner has been subjected to such an unrelenting media assault on his integrity," the statement said.

It said there was "continued and sustained media attacks" on the integrity of SARS and its commissioner on "blanket, malicious allegations" that could not be substantiated.

SARS said that it had for two years running outperformed the economy. This was "crowned" by the collection of over R1-trillion in revenue in 2015-16.

"The media is failing to acknowledge and recognise the achievements of SARS under the leadership of commissioner Moyane," said SARS.

This R1-trillion SARS had collected helped to reduce SA’s deficit and avoid a ratings downgrade.

Revenue collection outperformed the economy, and the level of tax extraction by SARS had moved close to levels during the commodities boom in the mid-2000s, said SARS.

Under Moyane’s leadership, SARS had put in place strategies to deal with the illicit economy and illicit financial flows, through engagements with regional commissioners-general in Southern Africa through seminars and meetings, and to deal with complex schemes used by large businesses to evade and avoid tax.

SARS said it put strategies in place to deal with the low compliance of high net worth individuals and addressed prevalent VAT refund fraud.

Key to its achievements, the tax authority said, was the enhancement of the SARS operating model instituted five months after Moyane took over at SARS. This restructuring had "brought about an additional R12bn in the first six months" of starting.

The restructuring saw Makwakwa placed at the helm of individual and business taxes.

"We wonder why at a time when every aspect of the economy is expected to perform consistent to the bleak economic conditions, and every other corporate leader is given the benefit of the doubt, the SARS commissioner is not.

"In fact, the prevalent media narrative fails to acknowledge and recognise the exceptional work and excellent achievements of the SARS staff and the Commissioner," SARS said.