SA Revenue Service Commissioner Edward Kieswetter – whose
appointment formed part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s clean-up of government
agencies – has been accused of corruption in the Technology Innovation Agency,
whose board he chairs.
TIA ex CEO Barlow Manilal, whose contract was terminated a
year early by the board last month, has issued a 22-page complaint about the tax
agency boss to the minister of higher education, science and technology, Blade
Nzimande, according to a report in the latest Sunday Times.
According to the Sunday paper, Manilal says Kieswetter “bullied and hounded” him during his tenure as chair.
Manilal also claims Kieswetter tried to set up a lucrative coaching contract for a friend of his, and that he insisted on flying business class against agency policy – claiming it was for an unspecified medical condition.
The TIA falls under Nzimande’s department. It is a national
public entity with a focus on technology development. Its website states that
its strategic goals include helping to commercialise tech solutions and
increasing infrastructure access for technology.
The complaint, which forms the basis of a legal challenge
against Manilal’s axing, is released under the Protected Disclosures Act, the Sunday
Manilal’s dismissal is set for the Commission for
Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). If it is not resolved by the
CCMA, it will be escalated to the Labour Court.
According to the paper, Manilal claims Kieswetter arranged a
meeting between the two of them and one Cilette Harris, whom he introduced as a
Harris’ LinkedIn profile describes her as a partner at Shine
Relationship Consulting, specialising in “Personal, Team, Leadership and
Organisation Development and Transformation”.
“I am an experienced process facilitator, accredited in
the Lewis Method,” the profile adds.
Manilal claims Kieswetter “chastised” him when Harris
was not hired and asked to “interrogate” the files for that supply
chain process, which he labelled “highly inappropriate”.
Kieswetter, for his part, has vehemently dismissed the claims.
According to the
Sunday Times, he called the accusations an ” attack on my integrity and therefore my
suitability for the position I hold as commissioner of SARS”.
He says he introduced Manilal to Harris as a potential
candidate merely because he thought she might “fit the bill” but that
he encouraged Manilal to explore other options.
Kieswetter also denied a further claim by Manilal that he
attempted to increase, backdate and influence board fees “in any way”.
He told the paper that board fees were subject to a rigorous process that was
ultimately approved by the minister.
Manilal was released from his position as CEO in June 2019
after serving for four years. The termination
of his contract was not widely reported.
Fin24 reached out to both SARS and the Nzimande’s
spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi, for additional comment. Should comment be
received, this article will be updated.