The deep destruction Tom Moyane’s reign inflicted on SARS, and the country, came into focus on Wednesday when four top former SARS managers explained the circumstances which led to their leaving the institution. Moyane will have to weather a plethora of accusations by former SARS officials under oath – including that SARS’ revenue stream was manipulated in an attempt to achieve the revenue target.

Whereas Pravin Gordhan on Tuesday laid out the yardstick of an effective SARS to the Nugent Commission of Inquiry, Wednesday was all about how SARS got “broken” – resulting in a R48-billion revenue deficit that partially translated into a percentage point increase in VAT. It was devastating news to the poor, and the start of a deep crisis considering government’s extensive expenditure plan.

Five SARS officials testified on Wednesday – one of them is still working for the service while four resigned at various stages during Moyane’s tenure. The commission, chaired by retired judge Robert Nugent, focused on why numerous senior managers – highly effective and skilled executives with decades of experience – were either dismissed or felt the need to resign on their own during Moyane’s time at SARS.20

When former Chief Operations Officer Barry Hore took the stand to testify before the Commission on Tuesday afternoon, he was the bearer of debilitating news: The Moyane era cost SARS at least R142-billion in uncollected tax, or the tax that was manipulated into looking like revenue income. (This is a figure that can be directly quantified, and does not speak to any knock-on effect that Moyane’s ill-informed decisions had.)

Hore suggested to the Commission that the revenue income figures were manipulated when SARS illegally held onto VAT payments while hiding their inability to collect more revenue. Hore’s figures were buoyed by the testimony of Sunita Manik, former head of the Large Business Centre (LBC) who also recorded her “suspicion of revenue manipulation”.

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