Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Cracking the whip: Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has told SARS employees that those who are unhappy should leave as the agency starts rebuilding its reputation. Picture: SUPPLIED
Cracking the whip: Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has told SARS employees that those who are unhappy should leave as the agency starts rebuilding its reputation. Picture: SUPPLIED

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has warned the South African Revenue Service (SARS) executives not to stifle attempts to rebuild the institution, saying that loyalty should be to the institution and not individuals.

Speaking at the agency’s Brooklyn headquarters on Thursday, he told the staff their job was to serve the people of SA. Nene addressed the revenue service staff at a difficult time, after the suspension of commissioner Tom Moyane and as SARS was set to announce its revenue results soon.

The Treasury, in response to questions from Business Day on Thursday, said it was "conservatively optimistic" that SARS would meet its revised targets come March 29.

A cumulative R209bn revenue shortfall was anticipated over three years from the medium-term budget announced by former finance minister Malusi Gigaba, starting with the 2017 R50.8bn shortfall.

Nene’s address followed Moyane’s suspension by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday, pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing.

Moyane was suspended largely due to his handling of the controversy around former SARS head of business and individual taxes Jonas Makwakwa, who came under scrutiny after the Financial Intelligence Centre flagged suspicious and unusual transactions into his bank account and that of his partner, Kelly-Ann Elskie, amounting to R1.2m. Makwakwa resigned last week, with Moyane admitting he could have handled the matter "differently and better" after months of apparent attempts to shield his second-in-charge from parliamentary scrutiny.

Another reason for his suspension was Moyane’s bringing the institution into disrepute over his handling of value-added tax (VAT) refunds.

Moyane had surrounded himself with an executive committee loyal to him, appointing a new team during his three-year tenure at the helm of SARS.

Sources told Business Day Nene told SARS employees that those wanting to "pull in another direction" should leave.

The Treasury confirmed that the newly installed finance minister had paid a visit to the headquarters of the revenue service.

It said the minister indicated to staff that "our job is to serve the public and the people of South Africa, where we are loyal to the country and to the institution, and not specific persons or interest groups".

Asked whether the morale at SARS had been dampened by recent events, the Treasury said the minister implored staff to "bounce back" and continue to serve the public, again emphasising loyalty to the institution and the country.

Meanwhile, the government is still in discussions on how the disciplinary action against Moyane will proceed.

Further details are set to be revealed by the Presidency.

marriann@businesslive.co.za

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