SARS Ethics Boss Revealed As CV Cheat

This latest scandal is just the latest in a series that have rocked public confidence in the institution. SARS, charged with collecting tax monies from SA taxpayers, has been regarded as a shining light of efficiency and integrity; recent events have tended to tarnish that reputation in the minds of many taxpayers.

Sunday Times

13 April 2015

A top tax official faked his academic qualifications to hold onto senior positions that earned him a salary that amounted to millions over the years...

Yolisa Pikie, special adviser to the suspended deputy commissioner of the South African Revenue Service, Ivan Pillay, quit last week after he was caught lying about his qualifications.

Pikie claimed to have a BComm degree from the University of the Western Cape when he applied for his job with Pillay, who was suspended in December for his role in setting up a rogue spy unit and whose highest formal qualification is a matric.

However, Pikie's academic record from the university shows that he did not complete his degree after repeatedly failing several subjects, including accounting, statistics, management and industrial psychology.

SARS sources said he also passed himself off as a lawyer at official meetings, even though he has only an incomplete law degree from the University of South Africa.

SARS spokesman Luther Lebelo confirmed this week that Pikie had been charged with "misrepresentation of his own qualifications," but declined to comment further.

Pikie's 13-year career at SARS ended abruptly on 2 April when he tendered his resignation "with immediate effect" shortly after being confronted with his academic record.

SARS has refused to accept his resignation and wants to complete disciplinary proceedings against him. It has also opened a criminal complaint of fraud against him.

Despite faking his CV, Pikie rose rapidly through the ranks at SARS.

According to his CV, after several years as a revenue analyst and a stint as media relations manager, he became a "special assistant" to the then-SARS commissioner, Pravin Gordhan, to manage Gordhan's "transition to minister of finance".

Next Pikie led a team that interpreted tax law and helped negotiate international tax treaties, before ending up with the coveted unofficial position of special adviser to Pillay as an acting commissioner.

Ironically, his official job title was "senior manager: governance and strategy", which meant he oversaw ethics and good governance at SARS, with an annual salary of R900,000.

SARS sources said Pikie's fake qualifications could not be traced when he applied for the job because Pillay had, allegedly, hired him and four other officials without following due process.

Pikie would neither confirm nor deny faking his qualifications and declined to answer specific questions.

"I am currently in dispute with SARS about various issues, and I do not consider it appropriate to engage with the media at this stage.

"I will confront all allegations against me in the appropriate forum."

Another former SARS official, investigations head Johan van Loggerenberg, exaggerated his qualifications by passing himself off to a journalist as an MBA graduate.

He quit SARS in February amid a probe into his role in the rogue unit.

An MBA typically takes two or three years to complete. Van Loggerenberg obtained his by attending a one-day seminar by motivational speaker Mervyn Niland in 2003.

In a 2004 promotional pamphlet, Niland says a "highly valued" MBA that usually costs more than R100,000 and "four years of study" is now "within reach" by getting a gold-framed MBA certificate after attending a one-day seminar.

Seminar topics include "management by intuition; turning problems into profits; coaches, mentors and short cuts; and speed-reading and power learning".

Van Loggerenberg denied claiming to have "academic qualifications that I did not have".

"I obtained my qualifications through hard work and long hours," he said.

Meanwhile, investigations into the rogue spy unit at SARS, including by audit firm KPMG, are expected to be wrapped up and made public in June.

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