Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Oupa Magashula. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Oupa Magashula. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Separating the SA Revenue Service (Sars) from politics will strengthen governance at the tax agency, says former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula.

Magashule says that to boost the independence of the Sars commissioner, he or she should resign their political party membership and desist from attending political gatherings.

In an affidavit to the Sars commission of inquiry chaired by retired judge Robert Nugent, he recommends that the commissioner should also not have a relationship with the president.

The Nugent inquiry, which is tasked with making recommendations to President Cyril Ramaphosa on how to strengthen governance at Sars, had asked Magashula for recommendations on how to do so.

This comes as the inquiry heard that suspended Sars commissioner Tom Moyane, who was a long-standing close ally of former president Jacob Zuma, had asked consultancy Bain & Co for a presentation on Sars a year before he was even appointed to the post.

It also emerged that Bain’s managing partner, Vittorio Massone, had met Zuma around the same time Moyane had requested the presentation.

Massone resumes giving evidence during the public hearings at the Sars inquiry next Tuesday.

Magashula’s affidavit details how he was appointed to the post as well as his working relationship while he was commissioner with then finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

“Upon appointment, the Sars commissioner must resign from any political party membership and cannot attend activities of political parties as he or she would expose themselves to undue influence by doing so,” he says in the affidavit.

Magashula also recommends that it should be “easier” to get rid of an errant commissioner, their removal should be performance based, her argues, so that they can easily be removed if revenue targets are missed. Moyane was suspended in March, but the disciplinary case against him has stalled because he has argued that it is prejudicial toward him. Moyane now plans on taking legal action to halt the disciplinary process.

Magashula, who himself had a difficult relationship during his tenure as commissioner with then finance minister Pravin Gordhan, culminating in his resignation, has also urged the commission to strengthen the responsibility of the finance minister over Sars.

“When it comes to Sars, the minister of finance should have ultimate responsibility, you cannot have a commissioner of SARS who is uncooperative with the finance minister,” he says. He also recommends that the commission push for legislating meetings between the Sars commissioner and the finance minister.

Magashula also argues in favour of an advisory board to assist the finance minister to oversee the work of Sars and for a proper succession planning mechanism, such as having two deputy commissioners.