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Gordhan climbs into 'defensive' SARS leadership

Mar 24 2017 11:09
Lameez Omarjee

Johannesburg – South African Revenue Service (SARS) boss Tom Moyane should heed his responsibilities towards a minister as any accounting officer should, said Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Speaking to the press following a briefing about the economy at Deloitte on Friday, Gordhan said there has been no intervention by President Jacob Zuma regarding his relationship with Moyane.

“[There is] no need for anyone to intervene. Mr Moyane is the accounting officer and like any other accounting officer is responsible to a minister and he must be responsible to a minister. It’s the end of the story,” Gordhan told journalists.

Moyane had previously said he would reach out to the president to mediate between the two. In February, the commissioner told journalists that Gordhan disregarded him at meetings, refusing to shake hands with him.

Moyane had also defended the tax authority's capacity to handle its administration. 

READ: Moyane hits back at Gordhan on capacity at SARS

On the issue of the state of administration at SARS, Gordhan said the Katz Commission in 1997 legislated on tax administration which created SARS as we know it today. Gordhan said that growth and revenue, policy and administration and intent as well as the delivery of intent are “absolutely” important.

Moyane previously said that the “centre” at SARS is holding and that he has a team of capable people at the institution.

On the relationship between Treasury and SARS, Gordhan said the issue is “overstated and overplayed” but not unimportant.

It is important when it comes to budgets and fiscal frameworks, and delivering services people require and supporting the economy in various ways, said Gordhan.

Gordhan said public officials should act professionally and be aware of their responsibilities towards growing institutions. These institutions must gain more legitimacy and maintain that legitimacy among South Africans. “If institutions are used for reasons other than that by leaders in those institutions then we get ourselves into trouble,” he added.

During his address Gordhan said that South Africans should guard key fiscal and economic institutions as well as rule of law institutions, as they will “outlast” all of us. “Some of us can cause huge damage if we don’t look after the institutions,” he said.

The South African public must be clear on what they expect from public officials, he said. In turn, public officials must conduct themselves in a way that honours a code. If they do not, they should work elsewhere, he said.

“Public position requires a particular level of maturity, a particular commitment to public service and a commitment to making institutions work in the public interest at the end of the day,” said Gordhan.

Currently it appears that SARS leadership is being defensive, Gordhan explained. “When one finds themselves in a corner for one reason or another, then it leads to one of two things. You can either own up and say ‘I am having difficulty, come and help me’ or you can become defensive and engage in all kinds of negative behaviour,” said Gordhan. “The latter is what we are seeing more of and hopefully good sense prevails over time.”

READ: SARS wants Judge Dennis Davis gone

SARS recently called for the dismissal of Judge Dennis Davis, over comments Davis made regarding the tax authority’s capacity to curb tax evasion.

Davis in turn told City Press that the tax committee is accountable to the finance minister and not SARS, and that there is no legal basis to threats to have him removed.

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