Bain denies it has withheld evidence about its work at SARS

Global management consultancy Bain & Company has denied it withheld any evidence about the role it played at the SA Revenue Service, after being accused of withholding information by a former partner. 

On Tuesday last week Athol Williams, who was appointed in late 2018 to oversee the implementation of Bain's remedy plan for South Africa, announced his resignation at a finance indaba in Santdon. Williams said that, in his view, "not all relevant documents that Bain had access to" were shared with the 2018 Nugent Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance by SARS. He believes the Bain is still "withholding", telling the indaba that "by my measure of full revelation, not doing what they need to do for South Africa".

But Bain on Tuesday said that an investigation into its work at the tax agency found no proof that evidence was withheld. 

"This investigation, which is now complete, did not find any evidence that Bain was involved in any scheme with [former SARS commissioner Tom] Moyane to damage SARS or that Bain withheld relevant evidence of any kind," it said.  

"We disagree with any assertion that the firm has not disclosed its full role in the events that transpired at SARS. Consistent with this commitment to be transparent, Bain & Company approached the relevant South African authorities in July of this year to reaffirm our commitment to fully cooperate in any investigation."

Bain in December apologised for the work it did with SARS, saying that in hindsight there is evidence to suggest that Moyane "was pursuing a personal political agenda".

The Nugent Commission found in a report that Bain had a part in a restructuring process which saw 200 senior SARS staff members shifted without explanation, the Large Business Centre shut down and the fragmentation of the tax agency's ability to collect revenue.

"The effect was devastating for many employees who were displaced, and proved to be detrimental to the efficiency and governance of SARS," the commission found. 

Bain on Tuesday said, while the firm had made mistakes, it had no "motive, monetary or otherwise, to damage SARS".

Williams in a new statement on Tuesday said, "it is important to note that I possess no evidence that Bain was involved in a scheme to damage SARS, and I have no additional information that relates to Bain being untruthful".

The tax agency, meanwhile, has been facing repeated tax revenue shortfalls in recent years. Earlier in October Momentum Investments projected that, based on current tax receipts and expected VAT refunds, the tax agency would be collecting "around R50bn" less tax than expected in the 2019 Budget.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni will present the 2019 mini budget on October 30.

- Additional reporting by Helena Wasserman 

* Update: This article has been updated to include part of a new statement by Williams. 

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