The resignation of head of the budget office, Michael Sachs, a consummate public servant and professional, is a bombshell. As uncomfortable as Sachs is with the reality that his resignation was a political act — he is at pains to avoid playing politics — his decision is as devastating to the project of keeping the public finances on track as was the firing of Pravin Gordhan. Sachs resigned because the budget process — a carefully managed, transparent process informed by Treasury and presided over by the Ministers’ Committee on the budget — is dead. In its place we have two things: the President’s Fiscal Committee, headed by President Jacob Zuma and including a handful other cabinet ministers, none of whom have Treasury experience; and the "mandate paper" written by the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation, headed by Jeff Radebe and located in the presidency. Two weeks ago, Zuma called Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane into his office and read to them a statement that he pl...

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