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By William Saunderson-Meyer


Jaundiced Eye: Poor Moyane must be so disappointed in Massone

He must have been dismayed by the performance last week of Bain & Company’s managing partner in South Africa.

Disgraced, dismissed, and disbelieved. And now, to add to the pain, disappointed.

That’s suspended South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Tom Moyane.

Moyane, whose shenanigans while heading Sars are now the subject of an inquiry chaired by Judge Robert Nugent, must have been dismayed by the performance last week of Bain & Company’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 feted 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 rands buying the cooperation of one of the world’s top management companies, you should be able to reasonably hope that whatever its other shortcomings, it will at least be able to prevaricate with a straight face?

Alas, as last week’s proceedings showed, it’s one thing to pull the wool over the eyes of a gullible chief executive. 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 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 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 it paid R200 million, Bain says R164 million – was based on flimflam. Over a period of six days, Bain junior consultants conducted interviews, each lasting only 10-15 minutes, with 33 mostly junior staff, all chosen by Moyane. No notes were kept of the interviews.

The perfunctory nature of the work done for Sars is difficult to square with Bain’s position as one of the top three global management consultancies. On the evidence, Bain & Company employs either inept buffoons, or else the firm is simply a hired gun.

Two other firms implicated in the corrupt process of state capture, KPMG and McKinsey & Company, eventually both buckled to pressure and paid back the enormous amounts of money they earned.

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

On Tuesday, Bain issued a statement that it would conduct a “deep and extensive” investigation into the debacle.

It said, also, there was a “growing frustration internally” that Bain had not recognised that it “may have been used to further a political or personal agenda”.

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

William Saunderson-Meyer

William Saunderson-Meyer.

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