Treasury spat intensifies

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba PICTURE : ANN 7

TALK of tensions between the Presidency and the Treasury was rejected by Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane yesterday.

Responding to claims that the budget head of the Treasury, Michael Sachs resigned over pressure from President Jacob Zuma, led to the government clarifying the role of the presidential fiscal committee (PFC).

Kubayi-Ngubane said the PFC did not in any way interfere with the institutional arrangements of the budget cycle. “Various intergovernmental forums exist at both the executive and official level to give effect to this constitutional imperative,” she said.

On Monday, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa weighed in on the battle for the heart and soul of the Treasury when he told an economic colloquium in Soweto that he would engage Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Sach’s resignation. “I am going to be able to have a discussion with the Minister of Finance to see how best we continue to stabilise the Treasury.

Sachs is a key official who is head of the budget office. “The budget office in our economy is the most important office because that is the office that drafts the country’s budget,” Ramaphosa said. He said Sachs knew about everything that had to do with the budget and it was unfortunate that he chose to resign.

Gigaba responded that he had “no opposition” to Ramaphosa’s intention to intervene. Yesterday Gigaba’s spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said there would be no issue if Ramaphosa wanted to talk to Sachs.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said yesterday Sach’s resignation would be dealt with at “the level of government, they will deal with that matter”. Two economic heavyweights yesterday also threw their weight behind Ramaphosa’s stance on bringing Sachs back to the budget section of the Treasury.

Dr Miriam Altman, a commissioner in the National Planning Commission, who was at the event at which Ramaphosa spoke, said she did not hear the Deputy President make the remarks as they were in response to a question after his speech.

“Nevertheless, Ramaphosa must be sharing the same sentiments as other South Africans that it is sad news indeed that Sachs has resigned. “All these developments appear to be on the basis that the President himself appears to be interfering with various departments, including the national Treasury.”

Altman said Sachs was a committed public servant who had done an excellent job during his tenure. “Ramaphosa has to be concerned that Sachs has resigned.” Dr Azar Jammine, chief economist at Econometrix, said Ramaphosa had the right to comment on such matters, given that the ANC conference is approaching.

“Ramaphosa is already thinking of what to do if he becomes the next president and is aware that in Sachs he will have lost much needed expertise,” Jammine said.

He said the exodus of many senior executives from the Treasury would be a big problem for Ramaphosa if he was to lead the country because he would be left without skills and expertise.

“Ramaphosa wanted to make a point that it would be very negative to become head of state without good material in place and would be forced again to try to employ the very same people at a higher price. “There is confusion over the nation’s budgetary process and it does destroy business confidence,” he said.