Nene: No mission more important than restoring SARS' credibility

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene wants staff at the SA Revenue Service (SARS) to focus on the figures "1345". This refers to the tax agency's R1.345trn revenue target this tax season.

Speaking at the launch of tax season 2018 at the agency's Alberton campus and contact centre on Monday, Nene asked staff to think “1345” and not to overshoot the target because “1345” was enough.

Nene said the government was working to stabilise SARS, restore its credibility and strengthen its capacity to collect revenue and meet its targets.

This was being done through the commission of inquiry into tax administration and governance, chaired by retired Judge Bob Nugent, which started last week, as well as the disciplinary hearing of suspended SARS commissioner Tom Moyane.

“We should allow the two processes to run their course,” said Nene.

“All I can promise you is that SARS is too important an institution and we shall do all in our power to ensure that it lives up to its mandate.”

Nene said that the objective of SARS was “the efficient and effective collection of revenue”.

“It is doubtful that there is any single agency in government whose operational performance is more critical to the work of government than SARS… government would not be able to meet its social objectives without the taxes and other revenues that are collected by SARS,” said Nene.

The finance minister said there was no mission more important than restoring the credibility of tax agency in the eyes of the South African public.

The agency has been criticised for its performance under Moyane, which included missing revenue targets and delaying VAT returns. Former staff members have criticized the culture at the agency under the former commissioner. Moyane, meanwhile, has defended his time running SARS, while his lawyer called the inquiry a "witch hunt". 

“SARS is key to socioeconomic development. We want SARS to do its work without fear, favour or prejudice and do so optimally,” said Nene. 

Nene thanked the acting commissioner Mark Kingon for “holding the fort” and for providing excellent leadership at the organisation.

Kingon took over the running of the revenue service in an acting capacity after Moyane was suspended by President Cyril Ramaphosa in mid-March 2018. 

Kingon, who spoke first at Monday's briefing, announced the release of a SARS services charter, which outlines tax payers rights and responsibilities, as well as standards of service delivery expected from SARS.

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