The South African Revenue Services (SARS) has been bedevilled with bad news for several years. This has ranged from multiple resignations to tax collection gaps and allegations that it lacks capacity and will to go after tax evaders.
The Nugent Commission of Inquiry, established to investigate what went wrong at the tax agency – once so highly regarded internationally – will hand over its final report to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday.
Fin24 took a look at what went wrong at SARS over the years, and attempts to stabilise it in 2018.
23 September 2014
Former president Jacob Zuma appoints Tom Moyane as SARS Commissioner, despite having no previous tax experience. He was placed on retirement at age 60 as correctional services commissioner.
2016 – 2018
SARS under Moyane defends multiple reports and scandals. The tax collection gap widens. Moyane supports senior executive Jonas Makwaka, despite the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) flagging suspicious deposits into his account. His relationship with Treasury under former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and the Davis Tax Committee breaks down. The book The President’s Keepers by journalist Jacques Pauw alleges SARS under Moyane did not go after revenue from the illicit tobacco industry, and looked the other way when Zuma failed to file tax returns for several years.
19 March 2018
President Cyril Ramaphosa suspends Moyane pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings. The letter to Moyane cites a "deterioration in public confidence" in SARS. Mark Kingon, at SARS for 34 years, is appointed in an acting capacity.
23 May 2018
Ramaphosa appoints retired judge Robert Nugent to head up a commission of inquiry into governance and administration at SARS. Terms of reference include the impact that the conduct of SARS management had on its public image and the integrity of tender processes.
May – July 2018
Moyane makes several objections to the two processes underway. He argues it would be unfair for the Nugent Commission and disciplinary inquiry against him to proceed at the same time. His request is turned down.
August – October 2018
The Nugent Commission of Inquiry hears damning testimony about Moyane from SARS employees and former staff members, chairperson of the Davis Tax Committee Judge Dennis Davis and treasury officials about the restructuring model under Bain & Co, approved by Moyane, which led to gaps in tax collection compliance.
Former managing partner at Bain & Co Vittorio Massone gives evidence that Moyane approached the consulting firm about working with SARS, before he was appointed as tax boss.
1 October 2018
Moyane files papers at the Constitutional Court to have the Nugent Commission of Inquiry dismissed. He argues that Judge Nugent is biased against him as he met with his nemesis Minister Pravin Gordhan while the inquiry was ongoing. He also states that it was unfair for both the commission and the disciplinary inquiry to continue at the same time.
1 November 2018
Ramaphosa fires Moyane following a recommendation by the Nugent Commission’s interim report that he be removed and "a new commissioner be appointed without delay to remove the uncertainty at SARS and enable it to be set on a firm course of recovery so as to arrest ongoing loss of revenue".
21 November 2018
The Constitutional Court dismisses Moyane’s application as well as an affidavit in support of him by Zuma. The apex court finds that he could have turned to the lower courts first.
11 December 2018
North Gauteng High Court dismisses Moyane’s urgent application to have his axing overturned, block a successor from being appointed and interdict the release of the Nugent Commission’s final report. Moyane’s conduct is described as "vexatious" and "abusive" by Judge Hans Fabricius.
14 December 2018
Judge Nugent is expected to hand over final report with further measures to stabilise SARS to Ramaphosa. Kingon's term as acting commissioner is extended for a further 90 days as the president promises to make a permanent appointment "soon".
Moyane has indicated he will appeal the North Gauteng High Court ruling in the Constitutional Court, but has not yet filed papers.