Suspended SA Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Tom Moyane might have violated the tax body's internal policy on conflict of interest when he allowed his "friend" Hlengani Mathebula to join the institution while serving on the board of BMW SA.
Mathebula is currently chief officer for strategy and communication at SARS.
News24 is in possession of Moyane's letter dated January 4, 2016, addressed to Mathebula in which he gave him his blessing to keep his position as non-executive director at the motor car manufacturer, while working for SARS until he (Moyane) worked out his "compensation for loss of benefits".
News24 understands that this followed concerns raised by Mathebula during negotiations for his move to SARS.
However, senior SARS staff have described this as a "violation" of the revenue service's internal policy on conflict of interest.
Conflict of interest
An email from the vetting office dated March 27, 2018 - written a few days after Moyane was suspended - requested acting commissioner Mark Kingon to urgently look into the matter as there could be conflict of interest in that hiring process.
Mathebula confirmed to the conflict of interest unit in March that he was still a board member of BMW since the matter of compensation had not been resolved.
But that email has raised concerns among senior staff who argue that given his high level position at SARS, Mathebula was not supposed to continue as a non-executive director at BMW, as it posed a possible conflict of interest.
An email written by one of the senior staffers calling for the probe states that Mathebula's employment could pose a risk to SARS, both from a governance and reputational perspective.
"Whether or not an actual conflict of interest does materialise is not important, as the mere perception of conflict may impact on SARS reputation," reads part of the email.
SARS insiders told News24 that Mathebula is a close ally of Moyane and was influential in most of the decisions made by the suspended SARS boss.
Insiders also allege that Moyane allowed Mathebula to continue benefiting financially for two years at BMW while working for SARS, yet other staff members were forced to resign from their directorships.
SARS' internal policy on conflict of interest, prohibits employees from being directors of a public or private company as well as doing business with the state.
The rule was introduced because companies discuss their tax matters in all their board meetings as per SARS directive.
Asked for comment the revenue service told News24 that Mathebula's term as board member of BMW SA Group ended in May and that he was no longer active as director.
"SARS can confirm that Mr Mathebula, indeed, disclosed his non-executive directorship of [the] BMW SA group during the recruitment.
"Employees already engaged in WoS (Working outside SARS) prior to joining SARS have to apply within (30) calendar days of their appointment. Such employees may continue to engage with their private interests until such time as SARS has made a decision with regards to the application.
"Mr Mathebula adhered to this policy or any (other) SARS policy relating to his private interests."
Moyane and his lawyer Eric Mabuza did not respond to written questions sent by News24.
On March 19, President Cyril Ramaphosa suspended Moyane after he refused to step down from SARS voluntarily.
The president said at the time in a letter he had "lost confidence in his [Moyane's] ability to lead the South African Revenue Service".
Moyane is facing four charges relating to misconduct and violation of his duties and responsibilities as SARS commissioner.
His role at SARS is also being investigated in the Nugent Commission of Inquiry, which is probing tax administration and governance at the service.
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