An ex­o­dus of tal­ent and ex­pe­ri­ence, and ‘cap­ture’ of the in­sti­tu­tion feared fol­low­ing the ax­ing of the fi­nance min­is­ter and his deputy

CityPress - - News - SIPHO MASONDO and S’THEMBILE CELE sipho.masondo@city­ s’thembile.cele@city­

Fuzile and Momo­niat are the heart of Trea­sury. Their de­par­ture will have an im­me­di­ate detri­men­tal im­pact. They have a no­table in­sti­tu­tional mem­ory

Se­nior Trea­sury of­fi­cials who re­port to di­rec­tor-gen­eral Lungisa Fuzile ex­pect him to quit af­ter Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma axed fi­nance min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han and his deputy, Mce­bisi Jonas.

Two se­nior Trea­sury ex­ec­u­tives close to Fuzile said it was al­most cer­tain that the di­rec­tor­gen­eral, whose con­tract has an­other year to run, would not see out his term.

Trea­sury spokesper­son Yolisa Tyantsi did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment yes­ter­day.

How­ever, a se­nior Trea­sury of­fi­cial close to Fuzile said: “Part of the prob­lem is that the fake in­tel­li­gence re­port im­pli­cates him as well.

“The assess­ment that he would want to leave is cor­rect. You can’t say he wanted to over­throw the govern­ment and still ex­pect him to con­tinue work­ing.

“Zuma should have sus­pended Fuzile and in­sti­tuted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to get to the bot­tom of the claims that he wanted to com­mit trea­son.”

The of­fi­cial said the de­par­ture of Gord­han and Jonas pre­sented Trea­sury with two se­ri­ous risks: mem­bers of the ex­ec­u­tive may want to leave be­cause they don’t agree with the changes, and oth­ers may be forced to go.

“For the pres­i­dent to ef­fect the com­plete cap­ture of the Trea­sury, he would have to re­move the di­rec­tor­gen­eral and his team. Trea­sury is a sim­ple in­sti­tu­tion to run be­cause a cul­ture has been es­tab­lished where it is run through laws and pre­scripts.

“It is nigh im­pos­si­ble to cor­rupt the in­sti­tu­tion, un­less you ap­point peo­ple who are not afraid to go against what is pre­scribed.”

An­other se­nior ex­ec­u­tive said: “I don’t think the di­rec­tor-gen­eral is go­ing to stay. Re­mem­ber, he wanted to leave, but Gord­han begged him to stay. His con­tract ended in May last year. Gord­han asked him not to leave and ex­tended his con­tract by two years,” he said, adding that new Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba would most likely want to work with his own di­rec­tor-gen­eral.

“If you con­nect the dots”, all in­di­ca­tions, he said, were that Zuma wanted to com­plete the cap­ture of the Trea­sury.

“They will not suc­ceed if they have the ex­ist­ing di­rec­tor-gen­eral there. You can’t com­plete the cap­ture. But I can tell you now, he will leave. He will prob­a­bly be or­derly about it and give no­tice to leave within a month,” he said, adding that Tax and Fi­nan­cial Sec­tor Pol­icy deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral Is­mail Momo­niat was also likely to go.

“Fuzile and Momo­niat are the heart of Trea­sury. Their de­par­ture will have an im­me­di­ate detri­men­tal im­pact. They have a no­table in­sti­tu­tional mem­ory,” the of­fi­cial said.

How­ever, he added that cor­rupt­ing Trea­sury would not be easy.

“It is not easy to take a de­ci­sion with­out it be­ing recorded some­where. If a min­is­ter feels a deal should go through, he should put it in writ­ing. There are those safe­guards, it is rare that there would be no pa­per trail.”

On Fri­day even­ing, Gi­gaba told jour­nal­ists: “Changes in the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive do not of ne­ces­sity mean there should be changes in the ad­min­is­tra­tion. I can­not fore­see what in­di­vid­ual mem­bers of the ad­min­is­tra­tion are go­ing to de­cide.

“I met them this af­ter­noon and I re­as­sured them of my sup­port. I de­pend on them to as­sist with the tran­si­tion and to as­sist us in im­ple­ment­ing govern­ment de­ci­sions with re­gard to fis­cal pol­icy.

“There is go­ing to be con­ti­nu­ity with re­gards to the ad­min­is­tra­tion. I am not com­ing here to be gung-ho with an agenda to change the di­rec­tor-gen­eral. I have known the di­rec­tor-gen­eral for a long time. He is a com­pe­tent and able man and I sup­port him fully in the ex­e­cu­tion of his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.”

Gi­gaba said there would be no reck­less ad­min­is­tra­tive changes.

“I have not been given a list of peo­ple to walk into Na­tional Trea­sury with,” he said.

It was widely re­ported that when Zuma ap­pointed Des van Rooyen as fi­nance min­is­ter in De­cem­ber 2015, Van Rooyen ar­rived at Trea­sury with Gupta al­lies Ian Whit­ley and Mo­hamed Bo­bat as his ad­vis­ers. Whit­ley is ANC deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral Jessie Duarte’s son-in-law.

The two se­nior Trea­sury of­fi­cials said at the cen­tre of the re­moval of Gord­han and Jonas was the clo­sure of the bank ac­counts of Gupta-owned com­pany Oak­bay Re­sources by lo­cal banks, and the sub­se­quent bid by Gupta ally Salim Essa to ac­quire the Habib Over­seas Bank, which re­quires the fi­nance min­is­ter’s ap­proval. “The bank is­sue is a big one,” said one ex­ec­u­tive. An­other said: “The bank is­sues were prob­a­bly the tipping point.”

A third se­nior Trea­sury of­fi­cial said Zuma re­moved Gord­han and Jonas be­cause of “Eskom, SAA, Transnet, the SABC, the re­fusal to al­low the SA So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency to de­vi­ate from pro­cure­ment poli­cies, the in­tel­li­gence re­port and the bank case that be­gan on Tues­day”.

“The plan was to with­draw the case had [Gord­han] been fired ear­lier,” he said.

The bank case re­lates to the declara­tory order Gord­han ap­plied for to the Pre­to­ria High Court to con­firm that he could not in­ter­vene in the banks’ de­ci­sions to close the Gup­tas’ ac­counts.

The of­fi­cial said other rea­sons in­cluded the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice, the Public In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Cen­tre and the SA Re­serve Bank.

At a me­dia con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, Fuzile said the low morale in the de­part­ment was jus­ti­fied.

“In the be­gin­ning we were one of the de­part­ments where min­is­ters changed fast.

“Then we learnt lessons, Trevor [Manuel] came in, there was tur­moil in the mar­kets, and then sta­bil­ity. Peo­ple grew to like him.

“The changes that are a lit­tle bit un­com­fort­able, are the changes that come un­ex­pect­edly,” he said.

“The car is in mo­tion, but you change the wheels when the car seems to be sta­ble and mov­ing. I am talk­ing now know­ing what the peo­ple say from in­side and how they feel. It is not a re­flec­tion of a re­jec­tion of change, nec­es­sar­ily. We have no rea­son not to like Gi­gaba be­fore we get to know him and what he stands for,” he said.

“Nat­u­rally, change scares and con­cerns peo­ple, you won­der what it will bring.”


OUSTED Pravin Gord­han, for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter (right), with his for­mer deputy, Mce­bisi Jonas

HEAVY­WEIGHT Trea­sury’s Is­mail Momo­niat

QUO VADIS? Trea­sury di­rec­tor­gen­eral Lungile Fuzile

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