If you want to fix Sars, Cyril, ‘fire Tom Moyane right now’

Tom Moyane, is seen during a press briefing held at the Sars offices where he disclosed to the media that SARS official, Jonas Makwakwa, had resigned with immediate effect, 14 March 2018, Pretoria. Photo: Jacques Nelles

President Cyril Ramaphosa is “applying his mind” to Judge Robert Nugent’s recommendation he must immediately sack suspended South African Revenue Service commissioner Tom Moyane.

This was contained in Nugent’s interim report on September 30 as required by the terms of reference set by Ramaphosa in May, when he set the wheels in motion for the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance at Sars.

“Mr Moyane has been given an opportunity to give reasons why the recommendations should not be implemented,” Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko told The Citizen yesterday.

Moyane has not testified at the commission, citing “inherent bias” and “gross unfairness” in a document Nugent called a disgrace and “littered with abuse, invective, and sinister suggestion”.

“What is clear to the Commission is that SARS reeks of intrigue, fear, distrust and suspicion. We have heard of it repeatedly in evidence, and we have encountered it ourselves,” Nugent wrote.

“The trajectory of modernisation, that had been in the making for a decade, was summarily stopped when the current Commissioner, Mr Tom Moyane took office on 27 September 2014, and the systems are degenerating as technology advances.”

The recommendation went on to say Moyane’s dismissal should happen “regardless of what the outcome of his disciplinary inquiry is”, and Ramaphosa should appoint a new commissioner.

“We stress that the replacement of Mr Moyane is not a panacea‚ but only the first necessary measure without which there is no possibility of rectifying the damage that has been done to Sars‚ and any further recommendations will be fruitless,” the report apparently read.

“To inspire confidence in a new commissioner of Sars, the commission further recommends that he or she be appointed through an open and transparent process that is subject to critical appraisal, but without compromising the urgency of the appointment.”

Further testimony was heard by the commission yesterday of the allegedly more than R100 million paid by Sars to Gartner Consulting.

Gartner spokesperson Laurence Goasduff said the company was assisting the inquiry.

“We look forward to the opportunity to present and discuss this consulting engagement with the commission in the coming weeks.

“At the request of the commission, we cannot provide further information until this process is completed,” Goasduff told The Citizen.

According to the inquiry on Monday, information received from Gartner showed the 25 work streams for architecture and technology came to a total cost of about R25 million. The project for enterprise architecture was R8.9 million and solutions architecture was R7.7 million.

Former Sars executive Andre Scheepers told the inquiry yesterday he would never have spent the money.

“Fix the leadership, it starts there,” Scheepers said in response to a question about what it would take to fix Sars, unknowingly echoing Nugent’s report to Ramaphosa.

Scheepers said a billion rands should have been spent over four years to upgrade Sars’ IT systems.

“I’m told the last major refresh was done in 2014.

“If there were no subsequent refreshes done of the landscape you’re sitting with a serious problem … you’re heading for a cliff,” Scheepers said. “If you didn’t spend that billion rands, you have trouble and it’s not something you can remedy in a single financial year.”

Amanda Watson / The Citizen