Newly appointed tax ombuds-man Bernard Ngoepe is under no illusions about the enormity of the task at hand, but believes his role can help “remove unnecessary obstacles” that have hurt small businesses in the past.
Ngoepe is considered one of the most respected judicial figures in the country. He was appointed as Judge President of the Transvaal Provincial Division of the High Court and serves as chancellor of the University of South Africa.
Ngoepe took up his new position as the first ombudsman for South Africa on 1 October in order to assist in the resolution of taxpayers’ complaints against the South African Revenue Service (Sars) – a move that has been widely welcomed by business.
“My role will be to deal with complaints relating to the manner in which Sars deals with services, or the administration of people’s affairs,” Ngoepe said.
“It is really about understanding people’s problems, and seeing how best we can resolve any administrative difficulties that can arise. My position is not about dealing with specific claims disputes, but to address matters on how these are facilitated.”
Ngoepe said although he had only taken up his post on 1 October, he very much had to “hit the ground running”.
“We have had to move very quickly, since this office is actually officially open and we are still in the process of recruiting staff.”
The office is expecting a high number of complaints and at the time of going to print was looking to employ more staff. However, he is excited about the project, believing that, with the right approach the issues that previously hampered businesses may be relegated to the past.
He said in years gone by a business might have been awarded a tender, for example, but the registration of that concern’s tax information had not been dealt with expeditiously, thus “hurting the business”.
He says although a formal process is yet to be documented, basically complaints are to be submitted in writing accompanied by suporting documents.
He said the ombudsman’s office would be well equipped to field complaints.