SARS veteran, ex-AlexForbes CEO Edward Kieswetter is SA’s new tax boss

LONDON — A month after Nenegate forced his reappointment as South Africa’s minister of finance, Pravin Gordhan hosted a media conference in Davos. I managed to get in a couple of questions, the second of which triggered a promise from Gordhan that he would urgently redress the Zuptoid hollowing out of the top team at SA Revenue Services. None of us, least of all Gordhan himself, would have guessed that would take three long and fractious years before that promise could start being fulfilled. Today’s announcement will get that ball rolling in earnest. Notably, the new SARS boss, Edward Kieswetter, was Gordhan’s right hand during the now state enterprises minister’s decade running the tax collection authority. Kieswetter was selected from a strong short list of six candidates which included his long-time former SARS colleague, and in recent months acting commissioner Mark Kingon. When I bumped into Kingon at Parliament in February, he said although his hat was in the ring, should he not get the job he had no intention of taking advantage of the state’s freshly offered early retirement package. One hopes there are no second thoughts. Because given the damage wrought by the Zuptoids, Kieswetter is going to need all the help he can muster in rebuilding SARS. – Alec Hogg

From the Finance Ministry:

President Cyril Ramaphosa has, in terms of Section 6 of the South African Revenue Service Act, appointed Mr Edward Kieswetter as the Commissioner for South African Revenue Service (SARS) with effect from 1 May 2019 for a term of five years. The decision was informed by the recommendation to the President from the Minister of Finance that the recommended candidate of the independent selection panel be appointed.

The process for the appointment of the SARS Commissioner is informed by the South African Revenue Service Act and was guided by the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance by SARS chaired by retired Judge Robert Nugent.

Among other things, the Nugent Commission recommended that the “candidate or candidates for appointment should submit to a private interview by a panel of four or more members selected by the President”, that the panel should make recommendations to the President and that the recommendations of the panel “should be made public”.

The independent selection panel was chaired by former Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel and composed of the following members:

  • Ms. Angela Bester
  • Justice Dennis Davis
  • Ms. Sindi Mabaso-Koyana
  • Mr. Ismail Momoniat
  • Ms. Thandi Orleyn
  • Mr. Fezekile Tshiqi
  • The position was advertised on 16 December 2018 and applications closed on 18 January 2019.

The following six (6) candidates were shortlisted and invited to the final interviews:

  • Mr Nathaniel Mabetwa
  • Ms Sunita Manik
  • Mr Edward Kieswetter
  • Mr Mark Kingon
  • Mr Gene Ravele
  • Ms Nazrien Kader

The Minister of Finance submitted the panel’s report and his recommendation to the President on Monday, 25th March 2019. The President has accepted the Minister’s recommendation.

The National Treasury is confident that the process undertaken has integrity and all necessary disclosures were made and no conflicts of interest have been identified throughout this process.

Mr Kieswetter emerged as the strongest candidate, based on his past experience as Deputy Commissioner for SARS between 2004 and 2009, and his subsequent track record of transformative leadership and his experience of turning around a large institution.

During his tenure at SARS, Mr Kieswetter established the Large Business Centre and High Net Worth Individual Unit, leading to both compliance and revenue collection improvements. As Group Chief Executive of Alexander Forbes Group Holdings he achieved a significant turnaround of the group, with particular attention to governance, integrity and restoring the group’s reputation.

President Ramaphosa said: “We have every confidence that Mr Kieswetter has the experience, integrity and skills required to turn SARS around by restoring revenue collection, redirecting operations toward innovation, developing future leaders for the organisation, and restoring SARS’ credibility and integrity.”

Minister Mboweni wishes Mr Kieswetter success in this endeavour, and looks forward to seeing SARS re-established as a respected tax collector and improved revenue collection outcomes. “I expect him to act without fear or favour, to restore and defend the integrity of SARS and to uphold taxpayer rights when carrying out his duties as the Commissioner, by implementing the recommendations of the Nugent Commission and restoring SARS to a world-class organisation,” Minister Mboweni said.