Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has been asked to look into whether the South African Revenue Service (Sars) chief officer for digital and information technology (IT), Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane, was qualified for her post following a bizarre series of public appearances in which she was criticised for displaying a “shocking” lack of expertise in the running of her department.
Democratic Alliance (DA) member of parliament Alf Lees said the party was demanding answers on how she came to land the R3-million-a-year job.
“What we are concerned about is her competency and so we submitted a parliamentary question yesterday asking for details of her qualifications and whether due diligence was done on those qualifications because the information we are receiving is that at least one of those qualifications is not as claimed.”
Meanwhile, experts weighed in on the risks posed to taxpayer data under an “incompetent” head of IT and the uncertain future of the e-filing system.
Chief executive of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), Wayne Duvenage, said the organisation was doing its own fact-finding on the state of affairs at Sars because Makhekhe-Mokhuane’s conduct during the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance at Sars, and an SABC news interview this week indicated a possible crisis.
“This is all about data and security of data and when your systems become compromised and you don’t have the security updated. For instance, hacking becomes a concern and that compromises the security of everyone.”
Bernard Sacks, former deputy director at Sars and a senior tax consulting partner at Mazars, said while he could not comment on the Sars commission, he was worried about the effects of the institution’s governance issues affecting taxpayers.
“It is in the interest of the organisation that the matter is resolved as expediently as possible. I think there has to be some measure of certainty so that we can rebuild tax-payer confidence.”
Commenting on the dangers of organisations using outdated software, IT expert Brendyn Zachary made the example of the UK where the country’s health department was hacked.
“It was discovered the [National Health Service] had not applied a patch to the Windows operating system, which may have prevented the attack.”
It was reported by the UK’s department of health that the cost of the breach totalled £92 million.
While patching software can be tiresome, he added, it was becoming increasingly vital for firms to understand the risks of not using best practice when it comes to cyber security.