WATCH: Sars IT official asks for protection from Sakina Kamwendo

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Chief Officer Digital & IT Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane chats to Morning Live's Sakina Kamwendo. Photo: YouTube

South African Revenue Service (Sars) chief officer for digital and IT Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane had Morning Live viewers in stitches this morning when she appeared on the news program to give clarity on the impending collapse of the tax agency’s e-filing system.

Makhekhe-Mokhuane seems to have a limited understanding of the modernisation process that Sars was undergoing back in 2014 and stated that she could not give insight about how or why the process was halted due to that limited understanding.

She went on to add that her limited understanding is due to the fact that she joined Sars in 2017 and the modernisation process began in 2007 and that is why she is not in a position to give any answers about the collapse of the process.

When asked about the looming collapse of the e-filing system, Makhekhe-Mokhuane stated that the damage would not cost R1 billion to fix.

“e-Filing is working, is fully operational, we want to encourage our taxpayers to do e-filing conveniently and where they are, the problem is that we have not had necessary budgets to upgrade our systems…”

Makhekhe-Mokhuane could not explain why they did not have the necessary budgets but went on to add “at the moment, what we are doing is to make sure that whatever is dying tomorrow, we make sure that there is a back up for it.”

She assured viewers that the e-filing system is fully operational and denied that it is on the verge of collapse.

Makhekhe-Mokhuane said that the only thing that will change will be the backend software that Sars uses to host the forms as Adobe (which is what they currently use) will no longer be supported as of 2020.

Morning Live host Sakina Kamwendo then asked Makhekhe-Mokhuane if she was implying that Sars IT professional Andre Rabie was lying when he told the Nugent commission that the e-filing system is not operating at full capacity to which she replied: “Ma’am, I cannot respond to that question.”

When asked if the e-filing system really is operating at 20% capacity as per Rabie’s Nugent commission testimony, Makhekhe-Mokhuane insisted that they had achieved “99.6% uptime” but would not elaborate on what this meant.

The crux of the interview came when Kamwendo asked for clarity on whether or not the Bain re-structuring displaced about 200 members of Sars’ managerial staff and Makhekhe-Mokhuane responded: “I can’t answer that but I think it makes sense.”

Kamwendo then rephrased the question and Makhekhe-Mokhuane presented a hypothetical scenario about the evolution of institutions and the factors they consider such as insourcing, outsourcing, centralisation, and decentralisation.

She went on to comment about outsourcing and stated that it has been focused on cleaning staff and security services which are often black people and stated how she would prefer to retain such staff members as their children would benefit from a Sars bursary scheme.

Kamwendo tried to return the focus of the conversation to IT and the restructuring of managerial staff, to which Makhekhe-Mokhuane responded: “Ma’am! Can you give me protection from yourself?”

 

A visibly amused Kamwendo ended the interview by asking for a final comment on Sars’ IT system.

Watch the full clip below:

 Kaunda Selisho / The Citizen