Kieswetter, who has significant experience in both the private and public sectors, including a previous stint at SARS where he served as deputy commissioner, started in his new role at the beginning of May.
Kieswetter's predecessor, Tom Moyane, was suspended and then dismissed in November 2018 following an independent commission of enquiry that found that he was unfit to hold office. In the period between Moyane's suspension and Kieswetter taking office, the reins at SARS were held by Mark Kingon, who served as acting commissioner. Kingon is a long standing senior SARS executive who has an excellent track record within SARS and is highly respected by taxpayers.
Kieswetter is taking on a challenging role. Under Moyane's leadership, many SARS senior personnel either chose to resign or were sidelined, and structures that had been put in place and proven effective for SARS collections, ultimately encouraging taxpayer compliance, were ignored or dismantled. These and other factors resulted in SARS becoming highly destablised and caused enormous damage to its credibility. From a financial perspective, SARS failed to meet its annual collection targets by a significant margin for several years in a row.
Kieswetter has committed to rebuilding the trust and pride of SARS' personnel in their own organisation, as well as taking steps to restore the confidence and respect of taxpayers. He has also acknowledged the importance of addressing the loss of skills and efficiencies that occurred at SARS over the past few years.
While these intentions are applauded, concerns remain that the damage to SARS over the past few years has been so great that repairing it will be a highly complex and lengthy process.