The Nugent Commission of inquiry which is probing tax administration and governance issues at Sars. PHOTO: Brenda Masilela/ANA
Disgraced, dismissed, and disbelieved. And now, to add to the pain, disappointed.

That’s former SA Revenue Service commissioner Tom Moyane. Moyane, whose shenanigans while heading Sars are now the subject of an inquiry chaired by retired Judge Robert Nugent, must have been dismayed by the performance last week of Bain and Co’s managing partner in South Africa, Vittorio Massone.

Massone had been summoned to explain why Bain had provided such patently poor management advice to Sars. The service had declined from one fêted by its international counterparts for its efficiency at extracting blood from stone, to posting a revenue shortfall of R100 billion over the past four years.

I have sympathy for Moyane. Surely, when you have spent a couple of hundred million rand buying the co-operation of one of the world’s top management companies, you should be able to hope that they will at least prevaricate with a straight face?

Alas, as last week’s proceedings at the Sars inquiry showed, it’s one thing pulling the wool over the eyes of a gullible CEO in a cosy top-floor office, after a few convivial brandies. It’s quite another to perform the same magic at a televised public inquiry, under probing questions from the panellists and an absolute bulldog of an evidence leader, advocate Carol Steinberg.

Massone was pathetic. He squirmed; he contradicted himself; he was transparently disingenuous. The relentless questioning about the poor quality of Bain’s work left him metaphorically wringing his hands and so often saying “I feel very stupid” and “I’m very sorry” that Nugent eventually sharply told him to save the apologies for later.

There is much to apologise for. There has been evidence from a number of witnesses that Bain was irregularly appointed and that the “reorganisation” was scripted around Moyane’s desire to eviscerate the Sars investigative units that were inconveniently targeting the wealthy and corrupt individuals behind state capture.

Bain’s expensive advice - Sars says they paid R200million, Bain claims they were paid R164m - was based on film-flam. Over a period of six days, Bain junior consultants conducted interviews, each lasting only 10-15 minutes, with 33 mostly junior Sars staff, all chosen by Moyane. No notes were kept of the interviews.

On the evidence, Bain are either inept buffoons or hired guns, political mercenaries who cynically tailored their proposals to destroy Sars.

Whichever is correct, it is difficult to see how Massone can survive as a top honcho at Bain.

Two other firms implicated in the corrupt process of state capture, KPMG and McKinsey, eventually both buckled to pressure and apologised, as well as, reluctantly, paying back the enormous amounts of money they earned.

There have been similar calls for Bain to #PayBackTheMoney. There can be no doubt that they will eventually have to do so, although it’s clearly very difficult for Bain to get its supposedly smart collective head around the idea of giving back money, however tainted it might be.

On Tuesday, Bain issued a statement they would conduct a “deep and extensive” investigation into the debacle. They said, also, that there was a “growing frustration internally” that Bain had not recognised they “may have been used to further a political or personal agenda”.

Ag, shame. It’s all such an ethical and organisational tangle. Perhaps they should hire some good management consultants to help them sort it out.

* Follow WSM on Twitter @TheJaundicedEye

** The views expressed are here not those of Independent Media

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