‘Slow bleed’ of top managers at SARS while leadership unaware of problems: Treasury official

29 August 2018 - 13:58 By Amil Umraw
Treasury deputy director general Ismail Momoniat‚ along with his boss‚ Dondo Mogajane‚ testified before Judge Robert Nugent’s inquiry into tax administration and governance issues at the revenue collector.
Treasury deputy director general Ismail Momoniat‚ along with his boss‚ Dondo Mogajane‚ testified before Judge Robert Nugent’s inquiry into tax administration and governance issues at the revenue collector.
Image: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

There was a “slow bleed” of senior managers at the SA Revenue Service while its top leadership remained unaware of the issues that plagued the institution‚ according to a senior National Treasury official.

Treasury deputy director general Ismail Momoniat‚ along with his boss‚ Dondo Mogajane‚ testified before Judge Robert Nugent’s inquiry into tax administration and governance issues at the revenue collector on Wednesday.

Momoniat said that under now-suspended SARS commissioner Tom Moyane’s new operating model‚ there was a sense that its executive committee was a “body unaware of the issues”.

“We began to see then a high turnover of senior managers…it began slowly‚ a slow bleed. Let’s take the loss of staff from key units like the LBC (Large Business Centre) and customs. You got a sense that the leadership at SARS‚ the commissioner and some of the exco managers‚ were really unaware of the extent that some of these changes actually made on the ground‚” Momoniat said.

“When you talk to the SARS leadership‚ it’s almost like they deny the problem…You got a sense that the exco was really a body unaware of the issues. Exco members may have whispered to us about how bad things are‚ but nobody was willing to come out openly and tell just how things were falling apart.”

Asked what Treasury would do to improve governance at SARS‚ Momoniat suggested legislation needed to be amended for “bad scenarios”.

“We don’t have an official Treasury view on how to proceed. The key questions that we have in trying to hold the commissioner and SARS accountable is that I always say it’s like the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act); we did legislation just after 1994 only having good scenarios‚ a good minister‚ and a good DG (director general)‚” he said.

“I think what we learnt is that you could have a bad minister‚ a bad president…we didn’t stress test the legislation for bad scenarios…The SARS act had a similar kind of approach. We didn’t deal with how do you deal with a bad commissioner? I think the big question for us is that the commissioner is too powerful.” 

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