Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Nothing to day. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Nothing to day. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

President Cyril Ramaphosa has fired SA Revenue Services (Sars) commissioner Tom Moyane.

The battle between Moyane and Ramaphosa now heads to court — the president has until Friday to respond to the application by the embattled tax boss to halt processes against him in the Constitutional Court.

But Moyane’s axing is set to shore up taxpayer confidence, which was severely eroded during his tenure. His exit draws to a close a dark period in the tax agency’s history, which resulted in the exodus of dozens of experienced and skilled employees.

Ramaphosa accepted the recommendation of Sars commission of inquiry chairman, retired judge Robert Nugent, that Moyane be axed, and on Thursday served him with a notice of termination of employment. The president acknowledged in the letter of termination that Nugent’s interim report, which recommends Moyane’s firing, painted a "deeply concerning picture" of the current state of the tax agency.

Nugent’s interim report states that Moyane’s entry into Sars had been a "calamity" for the institution and the tax agency environment during his tenure was characterised by fear, distrust and intimidation.

The Nugent inquiry heard evidence of the culling at the tax agency, through a predetermined restructuring based on conniving between Moyane and international consultancy Bain & Company.

Critical Sars units such as its large business centre, enforcement unit and legal and compliance units were culled during Moyane’s tenure, factors, which between 60 to 70 witnesses said, had contributed to the gaping hole in revenue collection.

The fact that contracts with Bain and IT consultancy Gartner were irregular, with the latter one benefiting a close friend of Moyane, was further damning evidence against the errant tax boss.

Ramaphosa said Moyane’s refusal to contribute to the work of the Nugent inquiry had counted against the former tax boss in arriving at his decision.

"Of further and in many ways greater concern is your refusal to meaningfully participate in the Sars commission in order to assist with identifying the root causes of the systematic failures at Sars," Ramaphosa said in a statement from the presidency on Thursday.

He said the interim report made it clear that the best course of action would be the termination of his services. Acting commissioner Mark Kingon will remain in the role until the president fills the post.

Moyane’s attorney Eric Mabuza could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Moyane was suspended in March after a string of controversies around his running of the agency, including a R50bn hole in revenue collection in 2017 and a decline in taxpayer compliance under his watch.

Stabilising Sars has been flagged as a priority by the Treasury. Nugent recommended that in order to stabilise the institution, Ramaphosa should fire Moyane and replace him with a permanent commissioner.