Parliament's standing committee on finance on Tuesday, criticised South African Revenue Service (Sars) Commissioner Tom Moyane for allowing senior official Jonas Makwakwa to return to work, and said he handled the whole controversy poorly.
"You have not served yourself well, and you have not served Sars well. There has to be serious consideration on suspending this gentleman and his partner," committee chairperson Yunus Carrim told Moyane.
He added that Moyane's public statements on the matter, which sees Makwakwa facing a criminal investigation relating to large deposits into his bank account and that of his girlfriend, as well as his responses to questions from MPs on Tuesday morning were fuelling perceptions that the man, while seen as his deputy, was being shielded.
"There is a strong perception that he is being protected and you are feeding directly into that perception," Carrim said.
Makwankwa was reinstated in his position as Sars' chief officer for business and individual taxes on November 1, after being suspended for just more than a year. He was suspended some time after it was reported that the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) had red-flagged suspicious payments into his bank account and that of his girlfriend Kelly-Anne Elskie, who also works for the revenue collection service.
Moyane reiterated that Makwakwa had been cleared of misconduct in an investigation by law firm Hogan Lovells, who found that neither him nor Elskie had also contravened Sars policy.
He also stressed that a report compiled by Hogan Lovells concluded that there was no prima facie evidence that Makwakwa had made himself guilty of misconduct in relations to the transactions noted by the FIC. These are being investigated by the Hawks.
On Monday, he had made the same point in a convoluted statement which added that Makwakwa was served with disciplinary charges on January 20 for violating the Sars Conflict of Interest disclosure provisions as well as its code of conduct. A further charge was later added, for allegedly breaching his suspension conditions through a phone call to a fellow Sars employee.
He said he appointed Advocate Terry Motau, SC, to chair the disciplinary inquiry with the guidance and assistance of Hogan Lovells, which concluded on August 15 and the outcome was received from the chairperson on October 13.
Carrim said he had written to Moyane on Friday in relation to the Makwakwa matter and asked that he respond before Tuesday's meeting. Instead, Moyane issued a media statement.
"Why didn't you just write to me?" he asked, clearly irritated.
Carrim went on to say the committee cannot escape its duty in interrogating the matter further as it had an oversight obligation, and that he wanted Hogan Lovell to be called to answer questions from MPs.
"In this world of smoke and mirrors, you cannot tell what is fact and fiction."
Carrim asked that the committee reconvene on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the matter further, but Moyane said he would not be available.