Vittorio Massone. Picture: SCREENSHOT
Vittorio Massone. Picture: SCREENSHOT

If Bain & Co had previously shown itself willing to co-operate with the Nugent commission of inquiry into the SA Revenue Service (Sars), that seemed to change last week, when the company’s SA head and managing partner, Vittorio Massone, failed to arrive for the public hearings — he claimed to be receiving treatment in Italy — and offered an affidavit instead.

With that, the story behind the Boston-based consultancy’s role in the destruction of Sars took a sinister turn, as it emerged that Massone had been the "executive coach" of suspended Sars commissioner Tom Moyane prior to his appointment at the tax agency.

In a recent round of hearings, Massone had withered under grilling from evidence leader Carol Steinberg. Put on the spot, the Bain executive had admitted to meeting Moyane — who he said already had "ambitions" of taking up the Sars post — a year before then president Jacob Zuma appointed him commissioner. At that meeting, the Italian consultant recommended a far-reaching "refresh" of Sars — a recommendation based purely on publicly available information.

But it is now clear from Massone’s affidavit that this was no one-off introductory meeting — it was the first of eight — and that Moyane was Bain’s client, using the company to realise his ambitions of becoming Sars commissioner.

The affidavit goes on to admit that Massone also met Zuma (though he denies discussing Moyane or Sars with him).

The Zuma-Moyane link is, however, significant. The pair have a long-standing bond, dating back to pre-democratic SA — something Moyane has admitted to in the past. So Moyane’s interest in Sars could well have been based on more than just his own ambitions.

In any case, almost four months before Moyane’s September 2014 appointment, Massone met with him to present his plan for the restructuring of the revenue service — despite neither man having set foot in Sars. His presentation went so far as to contain the names of individuals Moyane had to "neutralise".

Among them was then Sars COO Barry Hore, who resigned in December of that year. In Bain’s early meetings with Moyane, Hore was described as having too much power. This was based on information the consultancy had received from Sars’s now-disgraced former head of business and individual taxes, Jonas Makwakwa.

With Hore gone, Massone sent a celebratory e-mail to a colleague at Bain, saying: "Now, I am scared by Tom. This guy [Hore] was supposed to be untouchable and it took Tom just a few weeks to make him resign, scary."

Though Bain tried to downplay the use of the word "neutralise" in the hearings, calling it innocuous — common in consultancy-speak — Steinberg said the tone of the e-mail trail suggests a more sinister meaning. "Right from the word go, the concentration of power in the COO was identified … and there was an attempt to neutralise him and that is precisely what happened," she said.

It’s curious that Massone should withdraw from the inquiry — opting to simply file an affidavit instead — after having made admissions implying that Bain was not simply used by Moyane, as he had initially suggested. The consultancy had to have realised that Massone played a more integral role in the systematic breaking down and neutralisation of the country’s most efficient and effective state-run institution than he originally had us believe.

But for Bain, a carefully crafted public-relations web has unravelled completely. It would seem Massone and his firm willingly and intentionally aided and abetted the capture and destruction of the revenue service. The ramifications of their actions will be felt by the state and its citizens for years to come.