15/03/2018 14:56 SAST | Updated 15/03/2018 14:56 SAST

Five Reasons Why Ramaphosa Should Fire Moyane

The commissioner of the South African Revenue Services (Sars) has a chequered history as tax boss. But his time must surely be up.

Tom Moyane, commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (Sars).
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Tom Moyane, commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (Sars).

When Tom Moyane was appointed by then-president Jacob Zuma to become commissioner of the much-vaunted South African Revenue Service (Sars) on September 24, 2014, it was the jewel in the crown of state.

The organisation regularly overshot revenue targets – even during lean years; it revamped and modernised the tax-collection system and enabled the government to maintain capital investment in infrastructure and social services. It also developed a very effective enforcement capability, able to track and trace tax dodgers and organised-crime syndicates.

But the Sars of 2018 is not the Sars of 2014. There has been an exodus of expertise and senior executives, it has failed to collect sufficient revenue for the second fiscal year in a row, it will soon be the subject of a commission of inquiry, and its enforcement capabilities have been decimated.

This all happened under the watch of Moyane. Here's why he should be dismissed:

1. Moyane damaged Sars' reputation right from the start

Less than a month after Moyane's arrival at Sars headquarters in Brooklyn, Pretoria, the Sunday Times published the first in a series of false reports about a so-called "rogue unit" operating illegally within Sars. Moyane, new in his job, jumped into action and suspended all and sundry without answering any queries from his own management team. Any effort by his senior executives to attempt to protect Sars' reputation or to respond to the Sunday Times was thwarted by Moyane, who seemed content to let the stories and leaks engulf the organisation.

2. Moyane destroyed Sars' enforcement capabilities

With the departure of group executive for tax and customs enforcement and investigations, Johann van Loggerenberg, and his colleagues, five specialised and highly skilled units were disbanded: National Projects, which investigated underworld figures, such as Mark Lifman, Lolly Jackson and Radovan Krecjir, and the illegal cigarette trade; Central Projects, which investigated Dave King, a billionaire businessman who battled Sars for 13 years over a tax bill of more than R3-billion, Zuma friend Robert Huang and Julius Malema; the Tactical Intervention Unit, which covered border posts; the High-Risk Investigations Unit, which worked on high-risk projects alongside sister units; and the Evidence Management and Technical Support Unit, which consisted of world-class forensic and IT laboratories, as well as tax, customs, audit and other experts.

3. Moyane broke what was working

In late 2014, months after he arrived, he appointed consultants Bain and Co. as well as Gartner Inc. to review Sars' operating model. This entailed a massive overhaul of the organisation. Moyane, seemingly empowered by presidential fiat, even ignored then-minister of finance Pravin Gordhan's requests to desist from his plans until Treasury could study the potential impact. Inexplicably, Bain even recommended that one of Sars' success stories, the Large Business Centre, be restructured. Moyane also sought to clear out the upper decks of Sars' leadership, appointing 45 new executives in a year. But by Feburary 2016, more than 50 executives had left, taking along with them institutional knowledge and experience of tax collection and enforcement to the private sector. This year, government has a R50-billion hole in its budget after revenue came up short. It's a problem.

4. The Makwakwa cover-up

On May 17, 2016, Moyane received a report from the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) detailing alleged fraud and corruption by his second-in-command, Jonas Makwakwa and his partner, Kelly-Ann Elskie, who also works at Sars. Moyane never laid a complaint with the Hawks, and only suspended Makwakwa four months later, in September 2016. At the time there was no indication that the Hawks were investigating Makwakwa, and Moyane showed no urgency in dealing with the matter in terms of anti-corruption legislation.

5. A soft-landing for an alleged money launderer

Makwakwa was suspended on full pay for a year, before he returned to Sars after being exonerated by an internal investigation and disciplinary hearing. The terms of reference for the investigation into Makwakwa, conducted by law firm Hogan Lovells, were seemingly watered down to allow Moyane's man to escape censure. It originally included quite serious investigations into tax evasion and receipts of dodgy payments, but eventually eschewed the question of the payments identified by the FIC. And as Moyane said on Wednesday, after Makwakwa's resignation: "He regards this as being an opportune moment for him to exit Sars after being cleared of all the allegations of misconduct through a formal disciplinary hearing." No harm, no foul?