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Davis: It is not about Moyane

Nov 19 2017 06:07
Dewald van Rensburg

The recommendation by the Davis Tax Committee (DTC) that the SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner “urgently” receive more oversight has nothing to do with Tom Moyane, DTC head Judge Dennis Davis told City Press.

“In South Africa, we are obsessed with personalities ... The discourse has made rational debate difficult. Our report is not structured on that basis.

"The principle point is what is best for Sars,” Davis told City Press in an interview.

The DTC released six reports dealing with everything from student fees to mining royalties this week.

A report on tax administration includes a politically sensitive recommendation that the president’s “unfettered discretion” to appoint and dismiss the Sars commissioner is removed and that new oversight mechanisms are put in place.

The office of Sars commissioner is simply too powerful and important to have as little oversight as it currently does, the DTC report argues.

There is also a disconnection between the finance minister’s duties and their ability to carry them out if Sars is not accountable to them, it added.

“The committee strongly recommends the creation of a board which would supervise the operation of Sars with the clear objective of promoting the integrity of its conduct as well as to ensure that it implement systems to collect revenue as fairly and efficiently as possible,” reads the report.

The DTC’s recommendations follow Moyane’s public attacks on Davis earlier this year after City Press reported on the judge’s comments about Sars at a seminar in Cape Town.

READ: SARS boss Moyane: Judge Davis attacked, affronted us

At the time, Moyane threatened to get Davis’ committee disbanded and to lay a complaint against the judge at the Judicial Services Commission.

To date, none of Moyane’s threats has amounted to anything.

“Sars has noted the contents and recommendations of the DTC report and does not wish to comment on the matter in public. This will be done through the appropriate structures ... especially the minister of finance,” Sars spokesperson Sandile Memela said via email.

Sars has been engulfed in controversies since Moyane’s appointment in 2014, including the alleged purging of senior officials and Moyane’s public fights last year with then finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

Current finance minister Malusi Gigaba, who was appointed in March this year, has now called for an inquiry into Sars.

The DTC’s terms of reference did not originally include looking into Sars, and were added by Gordhan at the end of July last year.

Previously, the DTC was tasked with evaluating Sars’ ability to carry out some of the DTC’s other proposals.

However, Gordhan later asked Davis to look into whether the “accountability model” for Sars – designed by the 1995 Katz commission – was still appropriate.

From Katz to DTC 

Davis was part of the Katz Commission, which led to the 1997 Sars Act and creation of the independent revenue agency.

But according to the DTC report released this week, the current Sars’ governance and accountability model is not actually what Katz recommended.

Originally, the Sars Act called for the finance minister to appoint the Sars commissioner and for there to be a supervisory board mostly filled by nominees of the minister.

Then, in 2002, the Sars Act was amended to instead give the president “unfettered discretion to appoint the commissioner, while the minister’s role was diminished”, according to the DTC report.

At the time of this change, Gordhan was Sars’ commissioner.

The advisory board was also scrapped and replaced with optional committees to advise the commissioner.

“I was involved in the Katz Commission. The change in 2002 was never really explained to me. Why was it done? Frankly, I don’t know,” Davis said.

“It made the minister of finance completely subservient and it is anomalous. It is not in accordance with best practice internationally.”

“The simple proposition here is that all parts of government should be accountable.”

“The current position is bizarre,” the judge added.

The DTC’s preferred option for appointing the commissioner is to copy the process for appointing a Public Protector, which involves Parliament.

The second option is to revert to the original Katz recommendation and the finance minister makes the appointment.


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sars  |  malusi gigaba  |  tom moyane  |  dennis davis  |  tax  |  sa economy
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