Johannesburg – Lawyers representing SARS suggested on Friday that Commissioner Tom Moyane was out of the country when one of the biggest operational decisions at the institution was made.
The SARS legal team seemed to suggest at a CCMA hearing that Moyane was away when the announcement was made to suspend Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay and SARS strategic planning executive Peter Richer.
Former SARS spokesperson Adrian Lackay spent the entire last week under cross examination by SARS Advocate Wisani Sibuyi. Lackay is suing SARS for constructive dismissal before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). He wants to be awarded a year’s salary.
Lackay had testified that he felt his working relationship at SARS had irretrievably broken down after December 5 when Pillay and Richter were suspended and a press release on this was sent to the media. Lackay said he was not told about the suspensions and his input in the press release sent out by SARS executive Luther Lebelo was not sought.
While SARS lawyers suggested that Moyane was away that week, Lackay said he had seen the Commissioner that morning and he had not mentioned the suspensions to him.
Lackay said the Sikakhane report was cited as the reason behind the suspensions, but the report had not yet been seen by the public.
“I had not seen the report,” said Lackay. “I had not been informed of any of these matters in order for myself, and [deputy spokesperson Marika] Muller to be prepared for all the media attention this was going to cause.”
He also said that if his input had been sought he would have advised them not to mention the Sikakhane Report because the public had not seen it and it would not engender the public’s trust in the institution if it was cited as the reason for the suspensions.
“This was a big issue. The news media and editors were calling me and I could not answer their questions. I have never, in all my years at SARS, had this happen to me,” Lackay said. “No thought was given to the potential media fallout this would ignite.”
He said Muller was told not to say anything more to the media about the issue, which in his opinion was the worst way to handle the situation as it showed an institution that was not being transparent with the public.
Lackay testified that he had gone on leave two weeks later. He had been instructed to speak to Moyane about this before he left, but when he tried, Moyane’s office said he was unavailable and Lackay was told he was out of the country.
Sibuyi said to Lackay that this incident did not show a breakdown in his relationship between Moyane and himself, but instead the statement showed that Lackay had been lying to the public for the past five years when he denied the existence of the so-called rogue unit at SARS.
Sibuyi then put it to Lackay that Moyane had not been away in the second week in December. He was instead out of the country in the first week that December.
“Moyane will deny this. He will say that he was away in the first week in December,” Sibuyi said.
“Sorry, I have to ask, because the dates are important here,” Lackay responded. “Are you saying that when these two suspensions happened and a statement on it was sent out to the media, the Commissioner was not in the country?”
Sibuyi responded: “are you quite done?” before moving on to another question.
Lackay’s hearing will continue on Monday.