South Africa Tax Agency Former Spokesman Says He’s Broken No Law

Former South Africa Revenue Service spokesman Adrian Lackay said he broke no laws by writing to parliament about a secret intelligence unit in the agency and will fight the body’s defamation claim against him.

The tax authority is seeking 10 million rand ($800,185) from Lackay for defaming the revenue service, and a further 2 million rand for defaming the commissioner after he failed to either withdraw the March 24 letter to lawmakers, apologize to the agency, or provide evidence of “the serious allegations that he has made,” SARS spokesman Luther Lebelo said on Johannesburg-based Power FM.

“I will be seeking proper legal advice to defend against the combined summons and to defend my actions in court,” Lackay said by phone. “I believe I have broken no law.”

In March, Lackay wrote a letter to lawmakers saying South Africa’s tax agency didn’t operate a “rogue” unit that spied on President Jacob Zuma and other politicians. The government said in April that such a division existed, but that it had been disbanded. Lackay said selected facts published in the media could undermine South Africa’s fiscal prospects. He also alleged the commissioner caused him to issue false media statements.

“An important legal question is whether a state institution like SARS can use powers of confidentiality in law that are intended to protect taxpayer information and SARS operations, to suppress the truth or attempts to expose wrongdoing,” he said. “In my view, this case may become an important benchmark for what protection whistle-blowers may have against the employer.”

Lackay, who resigned from the tax authority on Feb. 19, said he would be taking his former employer to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration for breach of contract that caused him to leave his job. Johannesburg-based Business Day reported on April 19 that at least 10 senior SARS employees have left in the past six months.

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