SARS e-filing is at risk
By Baldwin Ndaba for IOL
The e-filing tax system will crash in the next two years unless urgent measures are undertaken to recall Barry Hore, who masterminded the IT system dubbed Modernisation.
Senior South African Revenue Services (SARS) official Andre Rabie issued the warning during the conclusion of his testimony before the Nugent Commission tasked to probe administration and governance at SARS since suspended commissioner Tom Moyane took over in September 2014.
Moyane allegedly scrapped an IT system which was introduced by former commissioner Pravin Gordhan in 2007 while he was still at the helm.
The system was continued in SARS even after Gordhan accepted a ministerial post in 2009. Witnesses testified that the Modernisation programme improved the SARS IT system, capturing data of all taxpayers including big business and multinational companies.
According to Rabie, a newsflash announcement on December 12, 2014 – three months after Moyane’s appointment – marked the end of the Modernisation project.
Sue Burger, a senior project manager at SARS, yesterday gave shocking details of Moyane’s decision to end the Modernisation system and its impact on her unit. Burger said Moyane’s decision placed more than R66million worth of projects at risk.
Three witnesses, including Burger, painted a worrying picture about how Moyane allegedly collapsed IT systems, customs enforcement measures and nearly scrapped the e-filing tax system – a few months after taking over.
Earlier the commission heard that the modernisation was introduced in SARS in 2007 when Gordhan was there.
Burger told the commission she was the SARS project manager for customs enforcement. She was the leader of a team of 12 people while others also had people working under them, she said.
SARS, at the beginning of each year, under the Modernisation project, adopted an annual performance plan to improve revenue collection and to implement any new legislation introduced by the government, Burger said.
All the units worked as a team and had regular meetings to assess their achievements and failures including budgeting for their different projects.
The commission heard that this was the practice since the tenure of Gordhan and continued with SARS commissioners without fail until September 2014, when Moyane took over.
Burger and others testified that their troubles began on December 12, 2014, when a newsflash appeared on their internal communication system announcing the scrapping of the Modernisation project.
“We were not consulted about it. The decision placed more than R66m worth of projects at risk. It was just like the curtain had fallen,” Burger said.
She told the commission that SARS had since December 2014 failed to account for more than R22m worth of assets which were captured in the e-Central system.
She said Moyane then introduced a new IT partner, Gartner, to set up a new IT system.
According to her, all project managers were grouped into one under her leadership.
Gartner is one of the companies the National Treasury has compiled a dossier on – it was paid more than R200m without proper procurement processes.
Yesterday, the commission heard that Gartner scrapped all the Modernisation legacy projects, but Burger said they had to plead for the e-filing system to be retained.
The hearing continues.