Stringing a sentence together is rarely a difficult thing for an executive. But it was for Vittorio Massone, managing partner at Bain & Co, when he gave evidence before the commission of inquiry into the SA Revenue Service (Sars), chaired by retired judge Robert Nugent. Massone, his colleagues felt, was not answering questions directly due to translation issues: he is of Italian descent. But it soon became clear that his difficulty might be due to the very odd circumstances in which Bain landed the Sars contract, and the calamitous effect of its work on the tax agency, which had a R50bn hole in revenue collection for 2017-2018. This, the National Treasury told the commission last week, resulted in the need to raise VAT by one percentage point for the first time in 20 years. Massone’s role is emerging as rather sinister as details slowly ooze into the open. He first visited former president Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home in late 2013 and again early in 2014, and is said to have presented ...

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