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Govt to appoint inspector-general at Sars 'to beef up governance'

Treasury said that while strengthening Sars would take time, this would result in improved revenue collection in coming years.

 South African Revenue Service (Sars) Commissioner Edward Kieswetter. Picture: @sarstax/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - Government plans to beef up governance at the South African Revenue Service (Sars), with one of the measures being the appointment of an inspector-general to monitor its conduct.

It's been just over a year since the Nugent Inquiry reported on "a massive failure of governance and integrity" at Sars under former commissioner Tom Moyane. His successor, Edward Kieswetter, has been working to stabilise the agency and restore public trust in Sars.

Treasury said that while strengthening Sars would take time, this would result in improved revenue collection in coming years.

Treasury said the job of an inspector-general for Sars would be to monitor the agency’s performance and to report to government and the public.

Also, part of the brief would be safeguarding whistleblowers in a way that keeps tax information secret, as will be empowering senior officials to disclose any lapses or undue findings during internal Sars audits.

Kieswetter said rebuilding the state-owned entity would take time: "The capability of Sars is sub-optimal – it’s not where we need to be. We’ve lost technical skills, in many ways we’ve become dumb in the way we work – and so we’ve begun to stabilise that and re-establish institutional integrity."

Treasury said the government planned to publish a discussion document by June that would set out proposed changes to the law to improve governance at Sars.

It said the changes would include a better way for the president to appoint or remove the Sars commissioner and an improved process for appointing and removing deputy commissioners.

Government will also strengthen the office of the tax ombud and separate it, financially and operationally, from Sars, something the tax ombud has been arguing for for some time.

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