THE Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) says its increased enforcement of cargo checks at Beitbridge Border Post has exposed rampant abuse of import laws, which was prejudicing the State of millions of dollars through false declarations.
The tax authority has since called on importers/exporters to comply with the law and stop abusing the facilities meant to benefit them.
According to Zimra, there is a rampant abuse of import laws by many people who are in the habit of falsifying or understating the values and amount of shipments, especially those coming from South Africa through Beitbridge Border Post.
In a statement on Thursday, Zimra said the recent move to introduce 100 percent searches on all consolidated private imports cargo came after detecting a lot of rent seeking activities by importers and transporters. In May, the authority introduced a facility to allow Zimbabweans in South Africa to send parcels home as consolidated cargo to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on most citizens.
“This facility has been available for commercial imports only. However, random spot-checks and physical inspections have show n that the quantities, price points of imported materials have been falsely declared thereby defeating the purpose of pre-payment and pre-clearance, which is intended to ensure smooth clearance and facilitation of movement of people and goods,” said Zimra.
The tax watchdog said there was relative congestion mostly of rigid trucks at Beitbridge Border Post due to ongoing customs law enforcement measures. According to the statement, cross-border bus operators and commercial truckers were now abusing the private imports facility.
“The facility makes it mandatory for every Omalayitsha to make a declaration and pay duty before they cross the border. There is no rebate applicable as these goods are unaccompanied by their real owners.
“However, the huge number of false declarations as shown by the amount of revenue recoveries from each truck has resulted in 100 percent physical checks,” said Zimra.
It is understood that under the current scenario, almost all shipments under this category have false declarations in terms of quantity and values. The goods in question include mostly groceries such as cooking oil, bath soaps, washing powder and flour.
“The selling prices of these goods in South Africa is well known and so false declarations are easy to detect. When a client pre-clears, it does not mean they may not be subject to compliance checks.
“The legislation provides for post clearance checks and these are based on risk. It should be noted that Beitbridge used to clear about 80 buses per day before Covid-19. The former bus operators have now joined the Omalayitsha and have replaced the buses with rigid trucks,” said Zimra.
The organisation said the 100 percent searches were bearing fruit and that as of Thursday alone, they conducted 159 searches and recovered additional revenue amounting to $6,1 million. Zimra said it has opened up more search points and increased staff numbers at Beitbridge to strengthen its capacity to enforce customs laws.
“Our mandate still remains to collect revenues for the Government and ultimately the nation. In instances where corruption, smuggling and illegal activities are occurring, Zimra will use its authority as provided for in the laws of the land to ensure that the nation is not prejudiced through revenue leakage,” it said.