Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
GOVERNMENT lost an estimated $20 million in revenue from commercial cargo entering the country through Beitbridge border post due to a collapse of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s (zimra) Automated System for Customs Data, it has emerged. This was revealed by Finance and Economic Planning Deputy Minister Terrence Mukupe after a surprise visit to Beitbridge border post yesterday.
The Deputy Minister spent eight hours assessing operational procedures on commercial and private imports and exports. Deputy Minister Mukupe said the breakdown of Asycuda since December 18 last year, resulted in a total collapse of operational systems at Beitbridge. “There is potential that we could have lost a lot of revenue and this is continuing due to the status quo. My own estimation is that we could have lost at least $20 million since the Asycuda system broke down. We will have to carry out a forensic audit because the amount might actually be higher than that,” said Deputy Minister Mukupe.
He said zimra collects $30 million every month. He said the situation was worsened by the complacence of the zimra board. “The board members including their chairperson are fully aware of these challenges. They chose to be complacent and allowed a total collapse of the system,” he said.
“My findings on what is obtaining at this border are that we are processing imports of commercial cargo for the local market based on the good faith of clearing agents and the clients. Under the current set-up, the clearing agents are handing their customs documents accompanied by an undertaking that they will honour their duties within 48 hours. That is when the Asycuda system is finally resuscitated and this is totally unacceptable. We are losing a lot of revenue daily as a result of such a set-up,” he said.
Deputy Minister Mukupe said more revenue was lost on transit cargo where the zimra manual acquittal system was also in shambles. He said in cases of the Removal in Transit (RIT), zimra was solely relying on the goodwill of clients who decide to update them on the acquittal of transit cargo at various ports of exit. A lot of revenue is also being lost to transit fraud in situations where the clearance is based on the goodwill of the clients who voluntarily approach zimra and declare that goods have actually left the country without proper acquittals systems.
“We are very worried about this deplorable situation where zimra has adopted a business as usual approach in the midst of a crisis,” he said.
He said Government was considering abandoning the Ascyuda World Plus system to enhance efficiency and the ease of doing business. “We need to benchmark it with what our neighbours in the region are using. In fact, all the border authorities share a common view that we consider adopting a new flawless system,” said Cde Mukupe.
He criticised zimra board chairwoman Mrs Willia Bonyongwe for allegedly failing to give Beitbridge border post the attention it deserves. “I do not understand how someone fails to visit their biggest cash cow and make the right amends to operations,” he said.
“This is the busiest economic hub for us as a Government and we cannot have people taking a business as usual approach. I will present my recommendations on the fate of the zimra board to my boss (Minister Patrick Chinamasa), who will have the final say,” said Deputy Minister Mukupe.
He said Government should urgently address infrastructure and human resource deficiencies at Beitbridge border post. He also commended the border authorities for working hard to facilitate trade under difficult circumstances.