Leaked letters between SARS head Tom Moyane and finance minister Pravin Gordhan reveal a complete breakdown in the relationship between the two finance heads.
In one letter, leaked to and republished by the Mail & Guardian, Gordhan lambasted Moyane for approving his own salary increase for the 2015/16 financial year.
In the letter to Moyane, Gordhan said that it was “unethical, immoral and illegal” for top management to determine its own increases and bonus payments, and that such action needed approval from external, executive sources.
Gordhan then threatened the SARS chief with further action:
“Should you proceed with making salary increments and bonus payments for senior managers without my approval, as executive authority of SARS in terms of the Public Finance Management Act, I am compelled to initiate and investigation, and if allegations of misconduct are confirmed, to ensure that appropriate steps are initiated,” Gordhan said.
An adverse finding against Moyane would necessitate steps to recover the ‘irregular expenditure’, he said.
Breakdown of trust
The breakdown of trust between Moyane and Gordhan has been long-documented through various media reports over the past year.
It was reported in 2016 that it was Moyane that initiated the Hawks investigation into Gordhan over the so-called “rogue unit”, which is currently still pending prosecution with the NPA.
After Gordhan took over as finance minister at the end of 2015, he reportedly appealed to president Jacob Zuma to fire Moyane, as he could not work amiably with the SARS chief. Moyane is seen as a Zuma loyalist.
Gordhan has openly criticised SARS management, expressing that National Treasury’s work is frustrated by a lack of co-operation and accountability from the revenue service. Despite this, the minister has done his best to keep the personal spat between himself and Moyane out of focus.
However, the 16 letters that leaked to the Mail & Guardian reveal how broken their relationship is, with Moyane reportedly side-stepping Gordhan completely in a number of matters, appealing to president Jacob Zuma to intervene.
In a letter of complaint submitted just 20 days before the 2017 Budget meeting, Moyane accused Gordhan of treating him like a child and mistreating him in meetings.
He took exception to the fact that Gordhan would not shake his hand in greeting, quoting Gordhan as saying “since when do you shake hands with me?” – and said it was unprofessional for the minister to refuse any private meetings with him, on matters that required his ‘urgent attention’.
According to Moyane’s account, in a subsequent meeting, Gordhan insisted that Moyane share the details of what he wanted to divulge to the minister in private, in front of everyone at the meeting.
Moyane said that Gordhan proceeded to accuse SARS of being “involved in politics” and “supporting one family against 55 million South Africans”.
“The minister lacks the requisite commitment, capacity and leadership to build a professional working relationship between the SARS leadership and the minister,” Moyane said.
Responding to the leak, SARS said that the letters were confidential, and it would not discuss the contents of correspondence between executives and ministers, nor an alleged events taking place in meetings between officials.