Taxing questions remain as top Sars exec slips quietly off
Revenue service won't say why law enforcement head Mogola Makola resigned in mid-December
Sars law enforcement head Mogola Makola, who was grilled during her testimony to the Nugent Commission of Inquiry and whose appointment was found to be irregular, has resigned.
The commission was established to investigate the governance and administration of Sars during the leadership of disgraced former commissioner Tom Moyane.
Makola, who was on a five-year fixed term contract, ended her employment with Sars on December 15. She is said to have returned to her previous employer, law firm Bowman Gilfillan, where she was a partner.
Sars spokesperson Sandile Memela confirmed Makola’s resignation to Times Select, but declined to respond to detailed questions on why she resigned, including whether she received a golden handshake.
Memela said: “In terms of Sars’s HR policies and practices we do not discuss employee information or details of internal processes related to individuals in the public domain. Sars has accepted her resignation and wished her well with her future endevours.”
Makola, who resigned 18 months after her appointment in July 2017, told Times Select on Tuesday that she did not want to discuss her resignation and asked for her privacy to be respected.
Makola, who told the Nugent Commission she could not “stomach Moyane”, was the first of the Sars senior executives to testify before the commission last year.
Except for one senior executive, Makola and the rest of the Sars senior executives were found by the commission to “require development”.
The commission said Makola, along with Sars IT chief Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane and Refiloe Mokoena, the organisation’s suspended chief officer for legal counsel, were appointed without proper ministerial approval, which would have made their appointments invalid.
The commission said Makola, along with the other executive managers, did not have the necessary experience needed to help manage a complex organisation such as Sars.
A Sars insider told Times Select that Makola had approached the commission after she was angered by the testimony of treasury staff, who had testified that the executives of Sars were incompetent.
“It was during her testimony that it was revealed how she spent a large part of her time chasing minor tasks which she had teams for, instead of focusing on how to properly manage the unit, which has one of the most important roles within Sars.”
The source, who asked not to be named, said Makola had left Sars because her pride had been damaged.
“Mogola took the treasury team’s testimony personally which was a mistake because it was not specifically directed at her. She then ran crying to the acting commissioner who referred her to the Sars pointsman at the commission, who advised her to come and state her case and set the record straight.
“Instead of properly evaluating what treasury and others testified about the Sars management style and sticking to points, she went off on different tangents, admitting to screaming and chasing staff, seeking her help, out of her office.”
He said that this had not gone down well with the commission.
“When you are a manager you need to learn how to work with your subordinates and empathise with them when they have genuine complaints, which most of those coming to her office for help had. These included staff who were wrongfully suspended by Moyane and his cronies.”
It was not that Makola was incapable of doing her work, the source said.
“Of all of Sars executive managers she is probably the most academically qualified, having practised at Bowman as a tax lawyer for years heading up the firm’s tax litigation department for sub-Saharan Africa. What was her demise was her management style.”
Keith Engel, CEO of the SA Institute of Tax Professionals, said Makola was a highly respected tax professional, especially for her technical knowledge.
“She came from Bowmans where she was a partner. She has the necessary technical knowledge and the skills to do the job she had at Sars. When it comes to management, there are very few in tax and accounting law firms who actually have management skills. Most in these firms, like Mogola, are stronger in the technical field than day-to-day management.”
He said of all of Moyane’s hires within Sars, Makola’s appointment would have been the most defensible.
“Not knowing the reasons for her resignation leaves one guessing as to what drove her to leave. With the Zuma faction still well entrenched within Sars, it could be that she left because of frustrations at what she perceived to be the slow pace to turn Sars around.
“What we can say though is that her resignation will be a loss to Sars.”