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  • Wanted: New SARS Commissioner – Two excellent candidates

Wanted: New SARS Commissioner – Two excellent candidates

07 February 2019

The Minister of Finance, Mr Tito Mboweni, re-appointed Mark Kingon as Acting Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for a further 90 days that commenced on 13 December 2018, or until President Ramaphosa appoints a new Commissioner.  This follows the removal of Tom Moyane as SARS commissioner by President Ramaphosa in November 2018, on recommendation of the Nugent Inquiry. The Nugent Inquiry unravelled widespread mismanagement of, and at, SARS during Moyane’s tenure. In Kingon’s testimony he made it clear that SARS’ “… executive leadership is broken and unstable and racked by division and distrust. We need visionary leadership at this time and I don’t think at this time we have such visionary leadership to take the organisation to the next step.”

At the time of Moyane’ suspension, the President made it clear that developments at SARS under Moyane's leadership lead to a deterioration in public confidence which compromised public finances. The judgement of the High Court (Gauteng Division) on 11 December 2018 (TS Moyane v President and Others), made this final. The Commissioner’s position was published mid-December 2018. The job description is a tough one, requiring the Commissioner to formulate, lead and direct SARS’ business strategy to deliver on its mandate. The successful applicant must display the highest professional standards, with high levels of professionalism, integrity, accountability, and the Commissioner must ensure superior quality service. Applications closed on 18 January 2018. The Minister of Finance will submit a shortlist of the names for members of an interview panel, for the President’s approval. Following the interviews, envisaged to be private, the interview panel will recommend a candidate, or candidates, to the President. The interview panel, the Minister of Finance, and ultimately the President who makes the final decision, will most definitely see a number of excellent candidates. But, two prime candidates spring to mind. The one being Maria Ramos of ABSA fame (speculated to be in the run). The other being Mark Kingon, the current Acting Commissioner for SARS.

Ramos (who turns 60 in February this year) announced her retirement as the CEO of Absa Group. She, before assuming the role of CEO at ABSA in March 2009, was the CEO of Transnet, following her seven stint as director-general of the National Treasury. Ramos started her career in 1978 at Barclays. Ramos is an accomplished academic and has taught at various institutions. She obtained an Institute of Bankers’ Diploma (CAIB) in 1983, a BCom, BCom Hons (Economics), and an MSc (Economics). She also served as a non-executive and independent director on the boards of Sanlam LimitedRemgro Limited and SABMiller Plc, and currently Richemont SA. She is the Chairman of the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA), a member of the Executive Committee of the World Economic Forum’s (WEFs) International Business Council, and on the Board of Business Leadership South Africa. Maria is highly regarded as a very strong leader, and has a solid experience base when it comes to Public Finances, especially SARS and National Treasury.

Kingon, on the other hand, has been with SARS for 35 years (since 1984). His service ranges from legal affairs executive roles at SARS. Kingon was with SARS from its establishment and climbed the corporate ladder to become the Group Executive for Relationship Management within Business and Individual Taxes. Kingon graduated at UNISA. In the infamous book “The President’s Keepers“, (by Jacques Pauw), Kingon went toe-to-toe with former President Zuma to get him to pay his taxes. It is said that by 2011, the VIP Taxpayer Unit again requested the former president to get his tax affairs in order, and Kingon was appointed to handle this. Kingon’s experience was marked by success with tax compliance and enforcement. Shortly before being appointed Acting Commissioner, Kingon was appointed acting Chief Officer for Business and Individual Taxes. Kingon is typified as reliable, consistent, and trustworthy.

Both Maria Ramos and Mark Kingon will be more than capable and extremely able to do the job, should both of them be in the President’s hat. However, the ideal would be to combine their strengths in changing SARS back to the once world-leading Revenue Authority it was renowned for.

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