HomeNewsZimra under pressure to feed into fiscus

Zimra under pressure to feed into fiscus

PRESENTATION of the 2016 national budget is around the corner and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) is one of the key institutions expected to harness resources to finance the fiscus.

By VENERANDA LANGA

However, corruption has affected collection of revenue, with reports of financial leakages being exposed on a daily basis by the media. The country’s border posts are some of the places where corruption and porousness have resulted in serious leakages.

The Zimra 2014 annual report that was tabled before Parliament last week described corruption as a cancer which had drastically affected the economy.

“Corruption remains a cancer for the whole economy, Zimra included,” the report reads.

Zimra said it had adopted measures such as lifestyle audits in a bid to combat corruption.

Geshom-Pasi

“The revenue authority has also adopted multiple other strategies, including the setting up of anti-corruption hotlines, whistle-blower facilities, full utilisation of blocks, road shows, workshops, extensive post clearance audits, full utilisation of scanner equipment, suggestion boxes and intensified investigations, among others,” the report says.

The measures have reduced corruption levels below the previous year, a development signifying that system leakages were being plugged.

“Most corruption cases involve aiding smuggling, receiving bribes, improper clearance of goods and failure to account for money received. Integrity lapses and greediness continue to drive corruption in Zimra.”

The authority, however, said it was highly encouraging that corruption levels were on a downward spiral in all regions of the country. This was due to the fact that Zimra had adopted zero tolerance to corruption, as was signified by the numerous arrests, prosecution and dismissal of convicted fraudsters.

There is, however, no public evidence yet of Zimra’s lifestyle audits, how it is being implemented, or who the targets are. Parliament was last week seized with the issue of corruption where lifestyles of some top politicians were said to be questionable.

Main opposition MDC-T MPs this week queried why some individuals in an ailing economy like Zimbabwe appeared to be living large to the extent of “building 50-bedroomed houses.”

Mabvuku Tafara legislator James Maridadi brought up the issue while contributing to debate on the President Robert Mugabe’s speech where he questioned lifestyles of some ministers.

“Where does a person get money in this battered economy to build a 50-bedroomed house? These are the issues of corruption which I think the president should have addressed in his speech,” Maridadi said.

Lifestyle audits, if undertaken, might reveal a lot of loopholes that need to be tightened in order to curb illicit amassing of wealth by some individuals.

Some of the border controls put in place to bust corruption included dog unit deployments at border posts and the Harare International Airport.

“Canine unit deployments were extended to all major border posts and Harare airport during the year. The major highlights of canine detections have been large quantities of raw cannabis detected at Nyamapanda Border Post and an assortment of illegal harmful skin lightening creams and pharmaceuticals. These deployments have deterred rampant smuggling and trafficking of illegal goods and drugs,” Zimra said.

“Drug smugglers are now forced to revert to the use of illegal crossing points. Strategies will be enforced to deter those smuggling through illegal crossing points.”

In the 2013 annual report, Zimra admitted corruption was a challenge in revenue collection. The revenue collection body said it had dealt with 59 corruption cases in 2013, with places like Beitbridge recording the highest number of cases.

Bulawayo South MP Eddie Cross (MDC-T) has been vocal about loss of revenue at Beitbridge Border Post through mismanagement. The economist said Zimbabwe was losing millions of dollars through failure to manage border posts.

“Beitbridge is the biggest border post in Africa and has a huge national and economic significance. Millions of dollars are lost per month in unnecessary costs due to corruption in particular,” Cross told the National Assembly.

He said he did a study in 2010 of the Beitbridge Border Post and found that between January and December 2010, the recorded movement of people, private vehicles, buses and heavy trucks was 3 633 017. This could translate into massive revenue collection if things were properly done.

Two weeks ago Cross again brought up the issue of loss of revenue by Zimra through delays in processing vehicular and pedestrian traffic at the border posts. He said at times, it took a haulage truck 16 days to be cleared to pass through Beitbridge Border Post. As a result, vehicles incurred parking costs of as much as R2 000 a day.

“Every day at Beitbridge, over 700 heavy-duty vehicles cross the bridge, with 14 million tonnes of cargo a year. It is by far the busiest border post in southern Africa. Therefore, the formation of a national border post authority is a great step forward because at least there will be somebody in charge,” Cross said

According to the Zimra 2014 report, gross collections in 2014 amounted to $3,84 billion against a target of $3,82 billion.

“Net cumulative collections for the year were $3, 60 billion against a target of $3, 82 billion, giving a 6% negative variance. Most of the revenue was collected from individuals; value added tax, excise duty and companies. Net revenue collections increased by 1% in 2014 as compared to the $3,55 billion that was collected in 2013,” the report said.

During the 2015 budget review statement, Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa said revenue projections for 2015 were $3, 6 billion, down from a targeted $3, 99 billion. He said expenditure was set to come down to $4 billion from $4, 11 billion, creating a budget deficit of $400 million, which would be financed from domestic and external sources.

It is evident that in order to adequately finance the national budget from domestic sources, Zimra and other institutions should fight corruption which has cost the country millions in terms of potential revenue.

Transparency International Zimbabwe says it is necessary to create awareness of the effects of corruption on citizens in order to minimise it, as well as to create public disclosure and allow whistleblowing on corrupt deals.

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