Freeman Razemba and Samantha Chigogo—
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) has launched investigations to establish whether or not all vehicles imported between January 2014 and June this year were cleared in accordance with the law. This comes as a forensic audit on the pay and benefits of Zimra senior executives is underway. According to the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara), the country’s vehicle population now stands at 1,2 million, from 800 000 in September 2014.
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Fears abound that thousands of vehicles could have been smuggled into the country by a syndicate of ZIMRA officials and clearing agents using counterfeit import documents. Zimra board secretary and director of legal and corporate services Ms Florence Jambwa yesterday said the investigations were part of regular compliance checks.
“The ongoing exercise to verify motor vehicles which were imported between January 2014 and June 2016 is part of ZIMRA’s regular compliance checks which are carried out to safeguard revenue. The selection of the period January 2014 to June 2016 is part of the authority’s risk profiling. It does not mean that other periods outside this will not be looked at as this is an ongoing exercise,” said Ms Jambwa.
“The extent of the prejudice, if any, can only be ascertained after the completion of the exercise.” In a Press statement, acting Zimra Commissioner-General Mr Happias Kuzvinzwa urged owners of vehicles imported between January 2014 and June this year to contact their offices to get confirmation or proper clearance. The deadline for the process has been set at September 30 and afterwards cars without proper clearance will be seized.
“ZIMRA is carrying out an exercise to verify whether motor vehicles imported into the country were properly cleared in accordance with provisions of the Customs and Excise Act (Chapter 23:02). In this regard, ZIMRA is kindly requesting all owners of motor vehicles imported into Zimbabwe between January 2014 and June 2016 to approach ZIMRA to get confirmation or proper clearance, and regularise the clearance if found not to be in accordance with the applicable laws.
“To facilitate confirmation, please approach your nearest Zimra offices with your motor vehicle together with the necessary customs clearance documents and your vehicle registration book,” he said. Mr Kuzvinzwa urged members of the public to use this opportunity to get clearance for their cars regularised before the deadline.
“If you fall into the category of importers or motor vehicles which were imported within the period in which ZIMRA wants to check as mentioned above, and you fail to comply within the period provided for this notice, you risk having your motor vehicle seized where ever it is found,” he said.
Earlier this month, there were reports that the forensic audit on the pay and benefits of ZIMRA senior executives was still on-going, and will now be completed at the end of the month, after officials failed to meet the June 30 deadline.
The audit is centred on executive payroll and packages including secondment of Zimra staff, personal loans advanced to executives and subsequent imports and clearance of vehicles.
The forensic audit covers the period from January 2014 and a report detailing the findings of the investigations was supposed to be submitted to the Auditor-General’s Office not later than June 30. The board chairperson, Mrs Willia Bonyongwe said recently they expected the forensic audit to be completed by end of this month or by the first week of August.
She said the auditors were already on the ground. The audit came after the board sent Commissioner-General Gershem Pasi and five other senior executive managers on paid leave after questions were raised over the imports of vehicles.
This came amid reports that Government’s revenue collecting agent was losing millions of dollars to dealers who were processing counterfeit undervalued import documents, to smuggle vehicles and other products.
The other five executives sent on leave are loss control director Mr Charlton Chihuri, Mrs Anna Mutombodzi (Commissioner of Customs and Excise), Mr Tjiyapo Velempini (director ICT and infrastructural development), Mr Clive Charles Majengwa (director internal audit) and Mrs Sithokozile Thembani Mrewa (director human resources).
The auditors are expected to look into procurement of services including recent and current renovations at Kurima House in Harare and establish if proper procedures were followed in awarding tenders.
In addition, the audit will cover procurement of uniforms and the ICT equipment, Asycuda system validation and construction of Chirundu houses. Further, the audit firm will review all documents and confirm purchases were in line with the procurement standards, and regulations and establish whether the costs were justified.
“The (contracted) firm shall produce a detailed report on the audit and where there is wrongdoing and criminal activity, (should) prepare the necessary papers for the necessary prosecution,” ZIMRA recently said.
The firm shall submit a detailed report to the Auditor-General highlighting findings, recommendations on corrective action, specific recommendations geared towards greater and better financial management, accountability and corporate governance of the organisation.
While Government’s failure to meet revenue targets has been largely blamed on poor performance of most revenue heads, corruption at the country’s borders has also resulted in loss of millions of potential revenue.
It is largely suspected that Zimra officials are facilitating the entry of undervalued imports and in some cases of smuggling. It is also alleged that individuals and businesses are evading duty by declaring goods destined for Zimbabwe as “in transit”. Mrs Bonyongwe recently said corruption was among major factors affecting revenue collection.