By Farayi Machamire
The newly-appointed commissioner-general of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has blew the whistle on civil servants from the other arms of government who are working in cahoots to deprive the fiscus of the much-needed tax revenue.
Zimra boss, Faith Mazani, told parliamentarians attending a tax workshop at a Harare hotel mid last week that designated ports of entry have become havens for illegal dealings involving government employees who are plotting daily to prejudice the taxman of revenue.
The syndicates, according to Mazani, include civil servants from government agencies such as agriculture, health, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and the army.
“We are confronted with a problem of syndicates whereby staff from all these institutions get together and agree on the corruption that will take place,” she said.
The Zimra boss said it was unfortunate that it was staff from the authority being blamed for the rot when it was other government agencies that were making life difficult for her team.
Zimra has since appealed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has made the fight against corruption the central plank in his policy matrix, to assist by jolting the other arms of government into plugging the illicit practices.
Mazani said while Zimra has tried everything in its powers to weed out corrupt elements in its ranks, including rotating staff, fighting corruption requires a multi-faceted approach involving all government agencies to nip it in the bud since the authority does not operate in isolation.
“We have had, at times, approached government agencies to transfer their staff because of corruption. We do have these problems at the border posts and I have had to personally approach the commander-in-chief of the (Zimbabwe) Defence Forces to try and see how we can address this corruption,” Mazani said.
Mnangagwa has declared zero tolerance on corruption although observers dismiss his call as hot air because no bigwigs have been convicted of graft.
Zimra board chairperson, Willia Bonyongwe, acknowledged the existence of endemic corruption at border post on Wednesday, adding that dilapidated infrastructure was also contributing to the sleaze.
Bonyongwe said the syndicates were using undesignated routes to smuggle goods into the country, while recommending deterrent penalties to destroy the vice.
“We need to have stiffer penalties,” she said. “If the penalty is not deterrent, this will continue to happen”.
While Zimra has invested in technology to improve efficiencies, by and large it is still operating in a semi-manual environment.
This is also contributing to corruption and frustrating the authority from discharging its mandate of collecting revenue for the State.
This development comes as Zimra is struggling to collect adequate revenue to support infrastructure development needed for economic growth.
Zimra’s collections fund more than 80 percent of government’s fiscal budget.
At the moment, the taxman is only collecting 25 percent of the total taxable income due to rampant non-compliance in paying taxes, manipulation of receipts, smuggling and lack of political will to clean up the gravy train.
The corruption is also manifesting itself through the payment of bribes to the tax authorities to reduce taxes and duties, and other forms of tax evasion.
Meanwhile, Zimra is in the process of restructuring Beitbridge Border Post and creating additional lanes for commercial traffic with the objective of decongesting the country’s busiest port of entry.
The tax authority is also implementing a queue management system for travellers, construction of office facilities for stakeholders, repairs of the border perimeter fence and an upgrade of the border post’s water and sewer reticulation system.