Well, it seemed a good idea at the time
23 November 2017 00:18 (South Africa)
Opinionista Wayne Duvenage

Tax Morality starts with Tax Spending

  • Wayne Duvenage
    Wayne Duvenage
    Wayne Duvenage

    Wayne is an entrepreneur, businessman and activist harboured in one soul. He is the Chairman of OUTA and has served as a Board member of the Tourism Business Council of SA. His recent activities include Chief Executive at Avis and President of SA Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association. Family, travel, a dram of Scotland's finest and some erratic golf makes him smile.

Minister Malusi Gigaba’s tax call for an urgent judicial enquiry into the woeful performance and governance issues at SARS is likened to a juggling act sideshow outside the main circus tent. It’s clearly a distraction and an attempt to show those asking questions – like the ratings agencies and investment houses – that the authorities are “seriously” looking into the undeniable shenanigans at SARS.

The farce of Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s announcement of a judicial enquiry into the woeful performance and governance issues at SARS revolves around the supposed sincerity of the fact that a judge will be conducting the enquiry, on a matter where political meddling has been rife, and that there is no need for a judge to determine what has gone wrong.

This smacks of the arms deal enquiry debacle all over again. Time-consuming, drawn-out arguments that are focused on the non-issues, while the glaring problems are skirted around and ultimately finding the President’s connected crony appointees all above board.

Seriously though, if the erstwhile minister wants the public to buy into his decision, he should consider the following:

  • Allow civil society to select the judge that will be commissioned to do the job.
  • Allow civil society, including some people in the know of the plight at SARS, such as Johann van Loggerenberg, Ivan Pillay, Jacques Pauw and others, to help write the terms of reference for the enquiry.

Just those two actions above,will raise the credibility of the enquiry. But we know that won’t happen and it leaves us with little else but to suggest that the minister should stop wasting our time and money on the supposed enquiry. An enquiry that we know will not include the necessary digging into why the President’s tax affairs were not rigorously interrogated.

We also know this enquiry will not get to the bottom of Tom Moyane’s irrational charges against Pravin Gordhan. It won’t address the dubious amended terms of reference which sought the enquiry to have Vlok Symmington suspended. Nor will it uncover the truth behind Moyane’s purging of SARS leadership and talent which is much needed in these turbulent times of declining tax revenues. This enquiry will not uncover the truth behind the return of Jonas Makwakwa to work after a year of suspension due to questionable conduct which is unbefitting of a man in his position.

Gigaba’s enquiry has already been conducted for him – it costs just R285 at books stores and is titled The President’s Keepers. And for nothing more, civil society could provide him with some hard-hitting facts and information to help reach some focused and effective decisions.

However, it’s not really on the revenue collection side of the taxation coin that Minister Gigaba should be focusing, but rather on government’s spending of the hard-earned taxes, that he should introduce a much needed enquiry. It goes without saying that the performance of government in most areas of spending, productivity and return on the citizens’ taxes paid is regarded as abominable. The statistics across the board depict a total disregard for governance for the people.

Minister Gigaba’s concern of declining tax compliance and the growing trend of tax avoidance is a case of “follow the leader”. If the President is not going to play by the rules, why should the people? If the Auditor-General reports a substantive growth from R30-billion to a projected R65-billion in irregular expenditure, the people will get angry and justify their growing calls and activities of a tax revolt.

Some economists equate the loss of revenue to the public at up to R200-billion, due to maladministration and corruption, much of which is not measured and reflected on by the AG.

So where to now, Mr Gigaba? With your bosses’ piggy bank drying up and a declining revenue stream, triggered by a weaker economy and the silent tax revolt, your ability to bail out the State-owned Entities has now come to an end. The time has arrived to make some tough decisions, sell off the atrociously performing SAA and other unnecessary SoEs. Tell Moyane to take a hike. Meet up with and reinstate the purged SARS leadership and your problems (or at least some of them) will be resolved. Who knows, you may even stave off a ratings downgrade. DM

  • Wayne Duvenage
    Wayne Duvenage
    Wayne Duvenage

    Wayne is an entrepreneur, businessman and activist harboured in one soul. He is the Chairman of OUTA and has served as a Board member of the Tourism Business Council of SA. His recent activities include Chief Executive at Avis and President of SA Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association. Family, travel, a dram of Scotland's finest and some erratic golf makes him smile.

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