Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officials countrywide in charge of the Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS), which curbs transit fraud, are living in fear after weeks of receiving death threats.
“We have been receiving death threats and we are living in fear. One of our guys was involved in a freak accident last Friday. Now after receiving the death threats, we are not sure if the accident was genuine or an attempt on the Zimra official’s life, considering the car didn’t have any form of registration,” a senior Zimra official said.
“The driver attempted to flee the scene of the accident twice. The guy had no form of identity on him. Moreover, his car had no number plates, no vehicle registration licence, nothing at all.”
According to senior officials at Zimra, the officer in charge of the ECTS — a tool meant to prevent and detect corruption by curbing transit fraud — escaped death by a whisker in Harare on his way home last Friday in a suspicious accident.
The matter was reported to Harare Central traffic police under reference number RR567/18.
Zimra board chairperson Willia Bonyongwe said: “I heard about the accident and it’s a serious issue of concern if it is proved that the accident was not really a normal accident. We, however, feel that it is time Zimra officers get some form of security.”
Zimra spokesperson Canisius Mudzimu said Zimra’s tenacious fight against illegal and underground activities such as transit fraud, smuggling, tax evasion and corruption would continue unabated.
“As you are aware, the concerted efforts by the authority through rigorous revenue enhancement measures, an unwavering stance against corruption and resultant improved compliance by taxpayers have seen Zimra surpassing the 2017 annual revenue target after net collections amounted to US$3,75 billion against a target of US$3,4 billion, resulting in a positive variance of 10,29%. Net revenue collections for the year 2017 improved by 15,46% from the US$3,248 billion collected in the year 2016,” Mudzimu said.
A senior official at Zimra said reaction teams recovered revenues of US$8,2 million and recommended that more seals be bought as the ECTS project brings in money significantly, boosting even customs duty collections.
Amounts collected so far for fines by Zimra total US$114 000 while money raised after detection by ECTS is US$4,5 million.
The official said cargo tracking is so deterrent that compliance levels on fuel were almost 50% up.
Deputy Minister of Finance Terrence Mukupe during a visit to the Beitbridge Border Post last week said the government lost an estimated US$20 million in revenue from commercial cargo entering the country due to a collapse of the Zimra Automated System for Customs Data (Asycuda).
Mukupe said the breakdown of Asycuda since December 18 last year, resulted in a total collapse of operational systems at Beitbridge.
Cases of transit fraud continue to increase amid reports that many trucks are evading customs duty by falsely claiming to be on transit and off-loading imports in the country.
The syndicate allegedly involves officials at ports of entry who connive with the fraudsters.
This has resulted in millions of dollars’ worth of products and goods finding their way onto the local market without paying tax as importers are now falsely claiming that goods are in transit to neighbouring countries.
Last year, the ECTS managed to bust a truck loaded with tobacco which passed through Nyamapanda Border Post, claiming to be travelling to South Africa via Beitbridge. However, the tobacco was offloaded in Zimbabwe and the detection recovered US$200 000.
In a separate incident last year, a truck carrying cigarettes passed through Nyamapanda, claiming to be exiting via Forbes Border Post but the cigarettes, with a duty value of US$200 478, were offloaded in Harare.
Zimra also intercepted four tankers at Chirundu Border Post carrying 140 000 litres of water purported to be diesel that was in transit to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The state lost close to US$55 000 after the fuel, which entered the country through Forbes, was emptied in Chitungwiza and replaced with water.