Attorney David Maphakela’s refusal yesterday to orally testify at the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance at the South African Revenue Service (Sars) could see him facing prosecution, Justice Robert Nugent warned in a terse exchange yesterday with Maphakela’s advocate, William Mokhari.
Mokhari had submitted Maphakela’s affidavits were sufficient and therefore he did not have to testify.
“The commission does not have the power to force him to testify when he has made his point very clear, that he’s not going to testify on the basis that he has provided through my submissions,” Mokhari said.
Nugent agreed with Mokhari, and said he couldn’t force Maphakela to speak.
“I can’t call in the police. I can’t lock him up. You’re perfectly correct,” said Nugent. “But I am saying to you that the ruling of this commission is that he should give evidence orally and if he chooses not to do so, then he will face the prospect of a prosecution.”
Mokhari said he would be taking Nugent’s decision on judicial review.
Up last for the day was Sars executive Luther Lebelo – for whom Maphakela used to act – who was asked about the R759 000 “consulting” fee paid to attorneys for collecting documents for Lebelo related to the inquiry.
“A few days before I appeared before the commission, I received a bill from the same law firm to the amount of almost a million rands for the files.
“I thought people would just go and get the files, clean them up, maybe make two copies and bring them here.
“I then wrote a letter back to the law firm and I said there is something wrong with this invoice,” said Lebelo.
Acting chief operating officer for business and individual taxes Fabian Murray yesterday apologised unreservedly to current and former staff at Sars.
“The reason I elected to step forward today is that I wanted to acknowledge that Sars has lost a number of great leaders and staff members with requisite technical capabilities,” Murray said.
“We were in denial or, frankly, did not understand the capabilities we lost when we perpetuated the narrative that we did not lose many skilled staff members.”
Murray’s virtual assistant on his phone provided some light relief when it chirped while Murray was testifying: “I can’t find anything for compliance.”