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SARS Inquiry shines a harsh light on Gartner chiefs

South Africa

NUGENT COMMISSION

SARS Inquiry shines a harsh light on Gartner chiefs

Two senior officials from global advisory firm Gartner were forced to concede to several irregularities and possible criminal conduct during their extensive and revealing testimony on Tuesday before the Commission of Inquiry into SARS.

In September Scorpio revealed that Tom Moyane’s friend Patrick Monyeki was embroiled with a dodgy contract between Gartner and SARS. Much of what Scorpio has revealed in September has been confirmed and discussed this week.

On Tuesday, Gartner’s local senior managing partner Neville Willemse struggled to explain his involvement in a myriad red flags and possible criminal conduct relating to a R200-million contract with SARS.

Willemse has known his business partner in the deal, Patrick Monyeki, for some time. Monyeki is the good friend and business partner of Tom Moyane, now suspended Commissioner of SARS. Monyeki is also the owner of Rangewave, the local company that illegally received a 40% chunk (about R80-million) from Gartner’s contract with SARS.

Another matter raising suspicion is that Gartner seemingly kept the appointment of Rangewave a secret from SARS. The revenue service could not find any acknowledgement or request from Gartner that informed SARS about the appointment of an empowerment partner. Under questioning from evidence leader adv. Carol Steinberg, Willemse was forced to concede to several irregularities and possible criminal conduct.

The most important concession was perhaps derived from his testimony about how Monyeki, seemingly out of the blue, contacted Willemse in around December 2014 to discuss an IT review contract SARS was about to publish. According to Willemse, Monyeki made it known to him that SARS specifically wanted Gartner to do an IT review of its systems.

It was a type of measurement of where SARS was at that moment. The discussion between Willemse and Monyeki followed days after Moyane stopped SARS’ modernisation programme without good reason.

Willemse and Monyeki seems to have met on 10 December to discuss the contract. Gartner, represented by Willemse, and Rangewave, then represented by Monyeki, continued to draft the terms of record for a SARS contract that was not yet published and that Gartner would ultimately win.

According to Willemse’s testimony he did not derive this mandate from SARS, but worked with Monyeki as a conduit. In fact, he conceded not to have ever spoken to SARS about the contract at this initial stage.

By way of explaining his conduct Willemse said Monyeki “told me [at the time] he met with SARS. It is not something he could have sucked out of his thumb”.

Willemse’s team then ceded about 40% of the contract to Monyeki in secret without informing SARS, the revenue service told Scorpio in written answers.

Listening to the stumbling Willemse’s attempt to explain away the scheme, Steinberg took no prisoners and said:

Do you know that in South Africa that is illegal?”

Willemse replied:

No, I did not know that.”

He also argued that he was not a procurement specialist.

Willemse is South African. According to his LinkedIn profile he has worked in the local IT industry since 1969. His LinkedIn profile states he is now “proudly representing Gartner in Africa”.

Willemse testified that he regarded Monyeki as a businessman in good standing and a “role model” for government. This conclusion is, however, not based on fact. A simple Google exercise will show that Monyeki has over the past decade been linked to several dodgy contracts.

When Scorpio questioned Gartner a month ago about Willemse’s role in the Gartner contract, the company declined to answer specific questions.

Scorpio verbally posed new questions to Willemse after his testimony. He denied that he was aware of the close relationship between Monyeki and SARS Commissioner Moyane. Scorpio has sources who contradict this statement. Willemse’s lawyer blocked follow-up questions.

After this major concession of how Willemse and Monyeki seemingly colluded to tailor-make a contract they would ultimately benefit from, Willemse’s testimony took a turn for the worse. Judge Robert Nugent, Commissioner, at one stage had to haul Willemse back from his meandering answers.

Nugent said:

Let me give you the rules of the game here. If counsel (adv. Steinberg) asks you a question, answer the question directly. If you want to explain it, do it thereafter.”

* * *

Willemse was subpoenaed by the Commission of Inquiry into SARS to provide his version of events. The commission had to ensure Willemse testified because Gartner nominated its managing vice president Michael Lithgow to put their case before the commission instead. Lithgow is based in the United Kingdom from where he had ultimate oversight over Willemse and his team, but has not had operational knowledge of the contract.

During the hearing on Tuesday Lithgow also conceded several times that the local team was involved in questionable conduct. Lithgow said he was confident that Gartner and Rangewave provided R200-million worth in service, but said he could not justify that the taxpayer had to foot the bill when SARS did not derive value for the money paid.

Judge Nugent made a pointed example when asking Lithgow if he would deem it above suspicion for a third party to profess itself as a conduit for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in the United Kingdom. Lithgow hesitated for a moment before conceding that such conduct would not be acceptable in the United Kingdom.

This line of questioning made Lithgow turn bright red. He said:

I feel pushed into a corner here, and I’m sure it is not intentional.”

Nugent replied, saying, “I’m not pushing you into a corner. I want an answer and I don’t get the answer. It is because you are changing the question all the time.”

Lithgow accused the judge of being irritated with him – a remark that solicited a chuckle from Nugent.

To get matters back on track, Nugent replied later:

Let’s not worry about my irritation and let’s not worry about your corner. Answer the question.”

Lithgow turned bright red again while spectators of the debacle giggled. Everyone, that is, except present Gartner officials and their entourage of lawyers.

* * *

The commission heard evidence from several SARS officials over the past two weeks of the concerning breakdown in SARS’ digital infrastructure since Moyane stopped its modernisation process. Gartner and Rangewave were employed to implement a new three-phase IT framework, but allegedly did not ensure a replacement for what was stopped.

Scorpio on Tuesday gained access to several documents emanating from the Gartner server. Gartner’s lawyers have also granted a request for a proper interview. Scorpio will probe the relevant information in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, the Commission of Inquiry has finalised this section of its public hearings. It has already provided a preliminary report to President Cyril Ramaphosa in which it recommends that Commissioner Moyane be fired with immediate effect. Ramaphosa will consider Moyane’s reply to the recommendation. The commission’s final report must be ready by the end of November. DM

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