The anatomy of the capture of the SA Revenue Service (Sars) is emerging in stark relief as the commission of inquiry into governance and administration at the tax agency holds its first public hearings. Retired judge Robert Nugent, who is chairing the commission, aptly said in his opening remarks that "sunlight is a great sanitiser". The inquiry, though still in its early days, has already shed much-needed light on the goings-on at the tax agency. A key aspect that has quickly emerged is the way Sars’s accountability and governance structures were systematically dismantled — contributing to the hole of nearly R50bn in revenue collection as well as the propensity of the tax agency in recent years to withhold tax refunds. The playbook of this capture started with the appointment of the now suspended commissioner Tom Moyane, when basic governance structures were dismantled, followed by a far-reaching restructuring carried out in secret. Then came the purging and sidelining of officials...

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