Labour Court slams Sars for way Pillay was suspended

Acting SARS commissioner Ivan Pillay
 SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay

Author: Aarti J Narsee and Penelope Mashego (Times Live)

 The deputy commissioner of the South African Revenue Services (Sars) who was suspended earlier this month can return to work on Friday.

The Johannesburg Labour Court on Thursday ruled that Ivan Pillay’s suspension was unlawful and ordered Sars to reverse it with immediate effect.

Pillay was suspended for 30 days by new Sars commissioner Tom Moyane on December 5. The suspension came after an investigation into claims of a rogue spy unit within Sars that was set up in 2007.

Moyane informed Pillay that he would be suspended based on the report prepared by advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, who investigated the “existence and truthfulness” of the spy unit allegations.

Some of the allegations reported in the past few months were that the unit had set up a brothel in Durban as a cover for officials working from home and had spied on a wide range of people, including taxi hitmen, Sars officials and politicians.

Moyane allegedly refused to consider a 34-page response that Pillay had prepared which noted his concerns that there were “significant factual and legal inaccuracies” in the report.

On Thursday, Judge Annali Basson ruled that Sars breached its contract with Pillay because he was not afforded the opportunity to make representations on why he should not be suspended, as prescribed by the suspension policy.

“It is in the interest of the public that prescripts agreed upon in advance regulating suspensions of senior officials be followed and that government institutions such as Sars be held accountable to what was agreed upon in the interest of good public administration,” Basson said.

Pillay had told the court that he was suffering “palpable prejudice to his reputation, advcancement and fulfillment”.

Moyane alleged that under the leadership of Pillay the unit “abused its powers and resources by engaging in activities that reside in other security agencies of government”.

Basson also ruled that the application was urgent as the court could not ignore the “immense personal and social consequences” of the suspension for Pillay.

While the procedure was unlawful, the fairness of his suspension will be decided by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), Basson said.

On Thursday, Sars spokeswoman Marika Muller said Sars respects the court’s decision. “We will only be in a position to comment further once we have studied the full ruling,” she said.

Lawyers for Pillay did not want to comment on the ruling and Pillay, who was not in court yesterday, could not be reached for comment.