The term of the Tax Ombud, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, came to an end on 30 September 2022, after nearly a decade.
He has been the Ombud since the inception of the Office of the Tax Ombud (OTO) in 2013.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has appointed Thabo Legwaila as the acting Tax Ombud for a period of three months until he has identified a suitable candidate to replace Ngoepe. Legwaila is currently the CEO of the OTO.
Ngoepe’s term has been extended twice. Before his appointment as the Tax Ombud he served as the Judge President of the North and South Gauteng High Courts.
He was also a member of the amnesty committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Chair of the Magistrate Commission, member of the Judicial Service Commission, and Judge and Vice-President of the African Court on Human and peoples’ Rights.
The mandate of the Tax Ombud is to take up and investigate complaints by taxpayers against the South African Revenue Service (Sars).
Ngoepe says one of his principal objectives was for the office to be structurally independent of the revenue service, without having the Sars commissioner as its accounting officer.
“This continues to be necessary given the fact that the OTO plays an oversight role over Sars when it comes to the treatment of taxpayers. It is an objective which must be achieved if there is to be any good governance,” says Ngoepe.
“Taxpayers deserve no less. It is hoped that the next Tax Ombud will not compromise on this, as doing so would be a serious betrayal of taxpayers.”
Ngoepe says it is encouraging that the parliamentary committee on finance has promised to pursue the matter and to expedite the necessary legislation to achieve such independence.
The need for an ombud
He strongly believes that an ombud in any institution or industry, private or public, plays an important role in resolving internal disputes, such as with the staff and stakeholders.
“It is an expeditious process which avoids litigation which is a very expensive exercise.”
The office started with four staff members and has grown to more than 40.
Under Ngoepe’s stewardship the Tax Administration Act, which defines the mandate of the tax ombud, has been amended to enhance the operations of the office.
The OTO is now allowed to appoint its own staff without having to ask the approval of the Sars commissioner.
Godongwana says Ngoepe has served the office with distinction during his term of office. He believes that Legwaila will execute his responsibilities with diligence.