Altogether 506 employees left the South African Revenue Service (SARS) in the first 10 months of 2017, but while the DA says this brain drain is a sign of the weakening of the institution, SARS says the rate of attrition among permanent employees has shown a constant decline over the past four years.

The management of SARS under commissioner Tom Moyane has been called into question and the assumption has been made that his reorganisation of the institution and his management style have caused a mass exodus of highly skilled professionals.

Replying in writing to a parliamentary question by DA deputy finance spokesman Alf Lees, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba revealed that of the 506 individuals who left SARS in 2017, a total of 128 had university degrees (double counted where a person holds several degrees) and 58 came from the audit division. The average age of those who left was 43.38 years and the average period of service 14.78 years. Of those who left 344 resigned, 83 retired and the services of 40 were terminated.

At the end of March 2017, SARS had a total staff complement of 13,583 employees, of whom 3,530 were professionals, 7,730 skilled and junior employees and 1,771 semi-skilled personnel.

SARS spokesman Sandile Memela said the focus on the total number of people leaving the organisation gave a skewed picture "as the total attrition also includes seasonal workers, graduates as well as deaths, retirements and dismissals.

"The SARS attrition rate shows a constant decline over the last four years. The attrition rate [among permanent employees] was 6.01% in 2013-14 against an attrition rate of 4.08% for 2016-17."

In the 2013-14 financial year, 645 permanent employees left SARS, followed in subsequent years by 607 in 2014-15, 452 in 2015-16 and 391 in 2016-17.

Total staff exits in 2016-17 were 1,111 of which 934 were resignations. Of these resignations, 528 were because contracts had expired.

Memela said resignations in the "audit job family" had remained constant at 52 for each of the past two years and the attrition rate in this section had declined from 6.77% in 2013-14, to 4.37% at the end of the 2017 financial year.

But Lees insisted that Gigaba’s reply revealed "the sheer extent of the brain drain" at the revenue service.

"SARS has experienced
institutional decay under its commissioner, Tom Moyane, and the reply confirms this. It also indicates the likelihood of continued institutional weakening," Lees said.


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