SARS commissioner Tom Moyane. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
SARS commissioner Tom Moyane. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

SOUTH African Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Tom Moyane was given the cold shoulder by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan at Wednesday’s budget events, failing to appear at the news briefing, which he usually attends.

Mr Gordhan’s snub reinforces reports that there is an intractable standoff between the two men and a breakdown in trust.

It also indicates that all is not well within the African National Congress and that the organisation remains divided over the role and leadership of SARS and the Treasury.

While Mr Gordhan, who has executive responsibility for SARS, has been determined to reassert his authority over the organisation since his reappointment in December, Mr Moyane appears equally determined to push ahead with extensive restructuring plans. Although Mr Gordhan has the power to remove Mr Moyane, doing so would require going head-to-head with President Jacob Zuma, who appointed him.

Asked to explain Mr Moyane’s absence, Mr Gordhan said: "It’s no secret that there are issues to resolve at SARS. We will resolve them in a couple of weeks and then we will communicate to the public."

Mr Moyane was seen standing outside the auditorium shortly before the media briefing, but was not allocated a place at the table.

The tensions go back to Mr Moyane’s investigation into a so-called rogue unit at SARS, which it is alleged to have used illegal methods to gather information. In a report, commissioned by Mr Moyane and conducted by KPMG, Mr Gordhan is fingered as responsible. However, Mr Gordhan says he was never interviewed by the investigators, who were instructed not to speak to him.SARS had not commented on Mr Moyane’s exclusion from the briefing by late yesterday afternoon.

Mr Gordhan was also candid about his displeasure over former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s replacement by Desmond van Rooyen. Commenting on SA’s heightened risk profile, the Budget Review says that the deterioration in the credit-rating outlook "was followed by changes in the finance portfolio, catching investors off guard and raising concerns of fiscal probity". Asked by journalists to elaborate, Mr Gordhan said bluntly: "They call it 9/12", in reference to the date of the calamity.

When Mr Gordhan thanked Mr Nene for his contribution, the House broke into loud and sustained applause in stark contrast to the jeers that followed his mention of Mr van Rooyen.