Adriaan Basson

Tom Moyane's 10 biggest blunders at SARS

2018-03-20 15:42
Sars commissioner Tom Moyane. (File, City Press)

Sars commissioner Tom Moyane. (File, City Press)

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Tom Moyane's appointment as taxman was shrouded in obscurity from the start.

When former president Jacob Zuma brought him in from the cold in September 2014 to head up the South African Revenue Service (SARS), Treasury and the financial industry were in a tizz.

SARS has for many years been a shining light in a morass of poor state governance and rampant corruption.

Under Pravin Gordhan, SARS became a world-class revenue service and attracted the country's top talent in tax, accounting, forensics and law.

It was bizarre that Zuma would bring back the retired prisons boss with a bad reputation for turning a blind eye to corruption to head up SARS. It later became clear why Zuma chose Moyane: he was willing to choose the interests of Zuma and his cronies over those of the country.

Moyane saw himself as part of Zuma's extended family and was seen in public hanging out with Duduzane Zuma, the former president's favourite son and proxy to the Gupta empire.

Almost four years on, Moyane leaves SARS under a dark cloud. "The disrepute in which you have brought the SARS and the government as a whole and the risk to the national revenue fund are enormous," President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote in his break-up letter.

These were Moyane's ten biggest blunders that finally forced him out of SARS:

1.       Shutting down anti-corruption units

The first thing on Moyane's to-do list at SARS was to close several anti-corruption units that targeted internal and external corruption. His lieutenants at SARS created a narrative in tandem with the Sunday Times' now defunct investigations unit that a "rogue unit" ran investigations against Zuma, bugged his house and ran a brothel. This was all patently false, but led to the destruction of scarce investigative capacity at SARS.

2.       Staff haemorrhaging

Under Moyane SARS bled talented staff to the private sector. In 2017 alone, 506 employees resigned from the tax authority, including 128 people with degrees and a combined 7 500 years of experience. Some of those who left were deputy head, Ivan Pillay, chief operating officer, Barry Hore, head of modernisation and strategy, Jerome Frey, head of debt collection, Vusi Ngqulana, and chief financial officer, Mtsobane Matlwa.

3.       Charging Pravin Gordhan

He denied it till the end, but the name of Tom Swahibi Moyane appears on the police's case system as the complainant in the matter that eventually led to criminal charges being proffered against Gordhan. The charges, relating to the legality of Pillay's early retirement, constituted a gross abuse of power by the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority and was eventually withdrawn.

4.       'Kidnapping' Vlok Symington

Probably the most bizarre episode of Moyane's reign was the "kidnapping" of SARS legal expert Vlok Symington in 2016. After Gordhan was charged, it emerged that Symington had penned a legal opinion in 2009 approving Pillay's early retirement. This blew to pieces the NPA's case. The Hawks visited Symington in his office to answer a set of questions. They handed him a bundle of documents that contained a legal opinion he shouldn't have seen. A Hawks investigator and Moyane's bodyguard kept Symington against his will until he returned the document.

5.       Helping Mark Lifman

Cape Town underworld figure Mark Lifman received unexpected help from Moyane, apparently under pressure from the ANC to reduce a massive tax bill of R400 million against the club owner and ANC donor. As SARS was ready to proceed with the matter, Moyane sanctioned a new team to "review" Lifman's tax bill.

6.       Establishing a new 'rogue unit'

In 2016, Moyane confirmed the existence of a new internal anti-corruption unit. But sources told News24 that the unit was mainly tasked to dig up dirt on Gordhan and former employees who worked under him. At the same time, Moyane brought in audit firm Grant Thornton to conduct investigations into tenders awarded during Gordhan's tenure as part of "Project Lion". It was reported the investigation was a "damp squib".

7.       Protecting Jonas Makwakwa

Moyane reinstated the beleaguered head of business and individual tax, Jonas Makwakwa, after a law firm cleared him of conflicts of interest, but while the Hawks was still investigating corruption and money laundering against him. The Financial Intelligence Centre had also reported to Moyane that Makwakwa had been receiving money from a SARS service provider. Moyane still allowed Makwakwa to return to his job in October 2017. He resigned last week.

8.       Fast-tracking Gupta VAT refunds

News24 first revealed in June last year that Moyane caused a massive legal fallout within SARS when he insisted the Guptas be paid a R70 million VAT refund to a third-party company. Daily Maverick revealed last week that Moyane may have committed acts of money laundering by approving the VAT refund be paid to an entity not registered as a VAT vendor.

9.       Holding back VAT refunds

Corporate South Africa complained since last year about an alleged delay in refunding VAT payments. In his suspension letter to Moyane, Ramaphosa specifically mentioned this matter as bringing SARS "into serious disrepute". Parliament has heard that millions of rands of payments may have been held back to boost SARS' revenue figures.

10.   His proximity to Patrick Monyeki

Moyane could never properly explain his relationship with businessman Patrick Monyeki, who had benefitted from a SARS tender to collect revenue. Monyeki is reportedly a close friend of Moyane's who also benefited from his tenure at the department of correctional services, when a company he is a shareholder and chair of (SA Fence and Gate) was awarded a multimillion-rand tender.

- Basson is editor of News24. Follow him on Twitter @adriaanbasson

Read more on:    sars  |  tom moyane  |  pravin gordan  |  jacob zuma
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