MOY­ANE’S POST­CARD FROM THE EDGE

Financial Mail - - EDITORIALS -

If you imag­ined that Tom Moy­ane, the sus­pended com­mis­sioner of the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice (Sars), is in ut­ter de­nial about the slow punc­ture of the tax agency, his let­ter to pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa this week will only set that im­pres­sion in con­crete.

Moy­ane was sus­pended by Ramaphosa last month af­ter he re­fused to re­sign dur­ing a 30minute meet­ing held at the pres­i­dent’s res­i­dence.

On May 2, he was then served with a no­tice of a dis­ci­plinary in­quiry that centred on four cen­tral al­le­ga­tions. The no­tice said Moy­ane had, first, bun­gled the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into why his erst­while deputy, Jonas Mak­wakwa, was caught stuff­ing cash into an ATM ma­chine in sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances; sec­ond, au­tho­rised R3m in “ir­reg­u­lar” bonuses; third, lied to par­lia­ment about the Mak­wakwa in­ves­ti­ga­tion; and, fourth, in­structed tax of­fi­cial Hel­gard Lom­bard to “feign ill­ness” so as to avoid a KPMG probe in 2015.

It was se­ri­ous stuff. Many a ju­nior em­ployee would have been axed in a heart­beat for just one of those in­frac­tions.

Yet, this week, Moy­ane’s lawyers wrote back to Ramaphosa, rail­ing against the in­jus­tice of the sus­pen­sion and of­fer­ing to agree to an “am­i­ca­ble so­lu­tion” — if Moy­ane is paid plenty of money.

Moy­ane wants pay­ment for the rest of his con­tract — an­other 18 months, in other words. Con­sid­er­ing he was paid R4.16m last year, that would equate to R6.2m.

But Moy­ane’s let­ter says he also wants “pay­ment of any bonuses due to him in re­spect of the tril­lions of rand which he has suc­cess­fully and ster­lingly col­lected in the past three fi­nan­cial years”. And he wants a “jointly agreed pub­lic state­ment”, pre­sum­ably one in which Ramaphosa at­tests to Moy­ane’s in­tegrity.

Should he not get what he wants, Moy­ane im­plies he will de­mand an oral hear­ing in which he will sum­mon Ramaphosa to tes­tify.

It reads like a post­card from the edge, re­veal­ing just how ten­u­ous Moy­ane’s grip of his own achieve­ments re­ally is.

For ex­am­ple, take the “tril­lions” he claims to have so suc­cess­fully wrested from South

Africans. First, col­lect­ing money is ac­tu­ally his job. Yet, over the past four fi­nan­cial years, Sars has fallen short of its rev­enue tar­gets by R100bn — R48bn in the past year alone.

No doubt part of that short­fall is due to a slow­down in the econ­omy. But part is also due to the fray­ing of Sars’s in­sti­tu­tional skills as a re­sult of Moy­ane him­self. Un­der him, more than 500 peo­ple have left the tax agency, in­clud­ing top in­ves­ti­ga­tors and ex­ec­u­tives. He also dis­man­tled the large busi­ness cen­tre, which dealt with big cor­po­rate tax­pay­ers (they pro­vide the bulk of the R218bn in cor­po­rate tax rev­enue).

Then there are the al­le­ga­tions of how Sars made a shady R70m tax re­fund to the Gupta fam­ily in June 2017, which irked tax­pay­ers sick of pay­ing money only to see it van­ish into the pock­ets of rent-seek­ers.

In his let­ter, Moy­ane says that while Ramaphosa raised the Gupta Vat re­fund as one rea­son for his “loss of con­fi­dence” in him, he has not been charged with this for his dis­ci­plinary in­quiry.

Moy­ane should be pleased about that. The Mak­wakwa charges alone will be a moun­tain for him to con­vinc­ingly an­swer, never mind the R3m in bonuses that the au­di­tor-gen­eral flagged as “ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture”.

Con­sid­er­ing Moy­ane’s legacy at Sars, there’s no rea­son why he should get even the six months’ pay Ramaphosa ini­tially of­fered him, let alone the 18 months he wants. To now threaten to em­bar­rass Ramaphosa by tak­ing his dis­ci­plinary case to the con­sti­tu­tional court il­lus­trates the real re­gard he has for the SA tax­payer.

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