Former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane. Picture: ALON SKUY
Former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane. Picture: ALON SKUY

Returning axed SA Revenue Services (Sars) commissioner Tom Moyane to the tax agency would be a "catastrophe", and any delays in appointing a permanent successor would "seriously prejudice" the organisation and the country.

Retired judge Robert Nugent, who is heading the commission into governance failures at Sars, said Moyane had crippled the organisation, one of the key institutions of the state, which is responsible for collecting the taxes that fund everything from education to defence.

In his affidavit responding to Moyane’s high court application to block President Cyril Ramaphosa from appointing a permanent successor and to prevent the submission of the commission’s final report, Nugent said that Moyane’s management had had "dire consequences" for revenue collection.

Nugent said that during the last four years under Moyane, the hole in revenue collection had grown to R100bn accumulatively. This shortfall, which also came amid a weakening economy, was cited as one of the reasons behind the government’s decision in 2018 to increase VAT for the first time in a quarter of a century, hitting the poorest in society hardest.

While Moyane’s Constitutional Court bid to halt either the disciplinary case against him or the Nugent commission failed, because he had not established grounds for direct access or exclusive jurisdiction, the judges said that he still had "other avenues available".

Evidence before the Nugent commission in the past eight months showed how Moyane, along with consultants Bain,
had implemented a far-reaching restructuring of the Sars operating model.

This had resulted in dozens of experienced employees being purged or sidelined, and eroded the capacity of the tax agency by disbanding key units.

"The process of repairing Sars cannot properly start until a permanent successor has been appointed as the new commissioner. Until then, Sars will limp along at the expense
of society at large," Nugent said in the affidavit. It is "crucial" that a new commissioner is appointed without delay to allow the organisation to put in place a "long-term strategy", he said.

Moyane had halted the decade-long Sars modernisation strategy, leading to four years of neglect of the tax agency’s IT systems, Nugent said, and indicated that only a new commissioner would be able to provide a proper motivation to the Treasury for funds to reverse this neglect.

Nugent said that evidence indicated that without intervention, the e-filing system would be "compromised" within two years.

There was further evidence, he said, which the commission received after issuing its interim report, that pointed to "serious misconduct" that "goes beyond mere recklessness".

He did not disclose the new allegations because Moyane had yet to respond to them.

Argument in the matter will be heard in the high court in Pretoria on December 4 and 5, after parties agreed to shift the date from November 27.

Nugent, who was meant to submit his final report to Ramaphosa on Friday, said in his affidavit that he would apply for an extension.

marriann@businesslive.co.za