BY REX MPHISA
THE Customs and Excise Department is not in a hurry to auction impounded vehicles worth millions of dollars held at its various ports countrywide despite their depreciation and threats from yet unexplained fires that have occurred in the past, particularly at Beitbridge.
The department, under the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), said some of the vehicles it has held for five or more years have pending legal cases.
Some Customs and Excise Department officials, however, believe their department was not being sincere and will deny the government substantial revenue because it is unlikely to realise the true value of the vehicles due to depreciation.
Had it auctioned the vehicles within three months of forfeiture as stipulated by the department regulations, Zimra was likely to realise modest revenue.
Most of the cars are kept under very poor conditions.
Some of the vehicles have been reduced to scrap.
At Beitbridge, some of the vehicles were extensively damaged in a fire during the July 1, 2016 riots against Statutory Instrument 64/2016.
“Vehicles held in the Zimra compounds belong to various clients and can only be disposed of after the clients have failed to clear the goods within the stipulated timeframes.
Goods that are subject to court processes will be disposed of after the completion of the legal process. It is, therefore, not possible for Zimra to consider disposal off any vehicles or goods outside the legal framework,” Zimra acting spokesperson, Inzwiraishe Muonwa said.
“The Minister of Finance and Economic Development has the prerogative of donating forfeited vehicles to deserving organisations and departments,” she said, disputing the notion that the Zimra commissioner-general, Faith Mazani, had the discretion to donate forfeited vehicles, apart from auctioning them.
Several government departments, including the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Health and Child Care ministry, to name a few, do not have adequate operational vehicles and could benefit from the thousands of vehicles held.
Some of the vehicles held are all terrain.
Muonwa said unlike a widely believed story that her department was failing to auction the cars because most had their ignition keys burnt in some of the three State warehouse infernos, records show that there were no ignition keys stored in the warehouses.
Sources at Customs and Excise Department at Beitbridge, however, said some of the ignition keys destroyed in the first fire that ravaged the warehouse were yet to be replaced.
“We believe some officials in our legal department are not doing their work because you cannot have a case of seized goods spanning over five or more years. That office is at head office and that, in itself, shows you that someone is not doing their work,” one Customs and Excise officer based at Beitbridge said.
“Those people at head office are quick to pass negative comments about what happens at ports or lower offices, but there are departments like this one I have just mentioned which is failing its duties,” the officer said.
He said some of the impounded vehicles had been vandalised.
“In the end, they do not even realise the money they charge for storage because the owner might not come back and wait to buy the car at auctions many years later,” the officer said.