It's not personal - says Gordhan over SARS wars

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. (File, AFP)
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. (File, AFP)

Stop personalising the impasse between National Treasury and the South African Revenue Service (Sars), Pravin Gordhan, minister of finance, said on Thursday.

“It’s not just about Pravin Gordhan and Tom Moyane (national commissioner of Sars),” said Gordhan after he was asked if the current cold war between the institutions was so bad that they weren’t speaking to each other.

Gordhan is Moyane’s direct political line manager.

Gordhan’s comments about the SARS were made while he was appearing before a joint sitting of parliament’s committee on finance to present an overview of the 2018-’18 budget to MPs alongside his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas and Lungisa Fuzile, director general of the treasury.

It was during this meeting that Gordhan also let slip how Bathabile Dlamini, minister of social development, had rejected treasury’s offer to help administer grant payments to millions of South Africans on April 1.

Gordhan said that Sars and treasury had been meeting more often lately.

There are major concerns over Sars’ failure to collect R30,4 billion rand less than its target in the 2016/17 financial year.

Gordhan and Moyane have been at odds since Gordhan’s reappointment as minister of finance in December, 2015.

The tension has been especially high since Moyane, who is perceived to be a Jacob Zuma loyalist, continued with the restructuring of the Sars, even though it had not been okayed by Gordhan.

The tension is part of the bigger battle in government in terms of which the Zuma faction in the ANC wants complete control of the treasury.

According to Gordhan, treasury and Sars is busy with “very important conversations about issues such as skills, abilities and stability in the SARS”.
Gordhan added that it was not about him and Moyane.

“What I’m interested in is whether the head of a very important financial institution and his management team are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

“Tomorrow another person could be in that role, but SARS will still have to do its work in a way that supports fiscal goals. I’m just doing my job and hopefully they will do their job.”

According to Gordhan the department of social development  approached treasury for help in December 2016.

That’s because the payment of social grants are teetering on a knife’s edge because Cash Paymaster Services’ contract with Sassa, which pays out social grants, will expire at the end of March.

To date, no alternative arrangements have been made.

“(Fuzile) put a team together in December which included the Reserve Bank and after scores of meetings they presented four or five options as to what could be done.”

Gordhan said the options were shared with Dlamini.

“However, in a recent letter to me she wrote that she is the final executive authority on the issue. I respect that."

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