Zimra ditches abused food imports pre-payment facility

Eight ZIMRA workers test positive of the COVID-19 virus at the Beitbridge Border Post
Eight ZIMRA workers test positive of the COVID-19 virus at the Beitbridge Border Post

Sydney Kawadza

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority has been forced to revert to physical border searches leading to congestion at the country’s border after discovering rampant falsified declaration submissions under its pre-payment and pre-clearance facilities recovering revenue amounting $6.1 million.

The authority introduced pre-clearance and pre-payment facilities for consolidated trucks (omalayithsa) to facilitate importation of food and essential imports by private individuals during the COVID-19 lockdown.

In a statement, Zimra spokesperson Francis Chimhanda said the facility has always been available for commercial imports but random spot-checks and physical inspections have indicated that the quantities, price points of imported materials were being falsely declared.

He said this had led to the defeat of the pre-payment and pre-clearance which is intended to ensure smooth clearance and facilitation of movement of people and goods.

“This has forced ZIMRA to enforce the law by searching all these trucks,” he said.

Chimhanda said the congestion at the border posts, especially Beitbridge Border Post, was being worsened by the resultant 100 percent physical checks.

“The risk management system in use in Customs provides for customs intervention for shipments that provide the most risk. We have noted that almost all shipments under this category have false declarations in terms of quantity and values.

“The goods in question are mostly groceries – cooking oil, bath soaps, washing powder, flour, etc. The selling prices of these goods in South Africa is well known and so false declarations are easy to find out.

“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.”

He said the facility was being abused by cargo crossing the border as commercial cargo but falsely declared as private importation leading to huge revenue leakages.

“We have designated more search points and increased our staff numbers and will continue to monitor the situation,” Chimhanda said.

“Having said that, 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.”

Pre-clearance and pre-payment facilities for the cross border traders was introduced around June 2020 to speed up the clearance of goods.

The facility makes it mandatory for every omalayithsa to make a declaration and pay duty before they cross the border while there is no rebate applicable as these goods are unaccompanied by their real owners.

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