OUTGOING Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) Commissioner-General Ms Faith Mazani is set to leave the organisation at the end of this month to re-join the International Monetary Fund (IMF). With 35 years experience in revenue administration, Ms Mazani’s achievements as a tax expert are well-documented. The Sunday Mail’s Gender and Community Editor, Fatima Bulla-Musakwa, interviewed Ms Mazani on her tenure at ZIMRA and the new post that she will assume at the IMF.
Q: You were one of the first revenue commissioners for ZIMRA in 2001 and also became the first female Commissioner-General. Now that you are leaving, can you reflect on your time at ZIMRA?
A: I can only say it has been an honour to serve my country as a person, not as a woman. I think the opportunities were in recognition of my culture of hard work, respecting the people I work with, irrespective of whatever social biases there may be, and particularly my respect for integrity and professionalism.
I always set myself a goal to build a professional brand for myself, my family and my country, and I protect that with all I have.
I also would like to register my appreciation for the time I was at ZIMRA from inception with the previous team led by Mr Gershem Pasi.
It was a mammoth task setting up the organisation, which contributed to the exposure and growth, and opened opportunities to work in the region in countries like South Africa and Eswathini (Swaziland).
My coming back in 2018 was to give back what the country had invested in me. It is a pleasure to have represented my country in the region and in Africa.
I actually re-joined ZIMRA on February 1, 2018 and will complete three years on my last day on January 31.
The three years have been exciting for me as I saw some of the changes from implementing the strategies and reforms we are introducing.
Q: What were your biggest successes and challenges as Commissioner-General?
A: In 2018, we invited the IMF to conduct an assessment of our systems and processes using the Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool (TADAT). This showed us areas that were weak and needed urgent reforms.
We, therefore, developed our strategic plan focusing on addressing those weaknesses.
Throughout the three years, my main focus has been to build strong relationships with the stakeholders that are key to the delivery of the ZIMRA mandate and improve our service delivery to taxpayers, whom we considered as key partners.
We came up with the now-famous 4Ps, being People, Processes, Partnerships and Projects.
This gave us focus on building a unified and motivated workforce to deliver the different functions of the Authority, and position ZIMRA as the employer of choice.
These four pillars of our strategy have helped us.
As the country introduced the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, we incorporated the three key pillars to stabilise our economy. This saw ZIMRA exceeding the revenue targets set by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development towards restoring fiscal balance, fighting corruption and plugging revenue leakages, and upgrading our customs systems to improve the ease of doing business.
As the country launched the National Development Strategy 1, ZIMRA has reviewed its strategy to align to NDS1 and ensure macroeconomic development.
Q: How does ZIMRA compare with revenue authorities in other countries?
A: Zimbabwe is acclaimed the world over, for its expertise in different areas, and ZIMRA has a lot of capacity that we can share with other countries. I, however, feel there is still a lot of work to do to bring the Authority to world-class standards.
We have struggled to implement our new systems and develop the infrastructure necessary for a modern revenue administration. This has partly been due to the hyperinflationary environment and the price increases which affected our procurement, including the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. This has affected the delivery of a number of staff welfare and taxpayer service requirements per our strategic plan.
Q: How do you feel about returning to the IMF?
A: Since I left the IMF in Ghana in 2018 to join ZIMRA, I have kept contact with colleagues I worked with, both in the region and in Washington. ZIMRA has been receiving technical assistance from the Regional Technical Assistance Centre for Southern Africa (AFRITAC South) to support the reforms we had started under our Strategic Plan (2019–2023). This is how I was advised of the opportunity when the incumbent moved to Washington.
Q: How different is the post you will assume compared to the previous one of Regional Revenue Administration Advisor for IMF, in terms of responsibility as well as influence?
A: I am joining AFRITAC South as the Regional Tax Administration Advisor for Southern Africa. The region is one of the IMF’s Regional Technical Assistance Centres (RTACs) providing technical assistance and capacity building support to member countries. I will, therefore, be responsible for providing the support to revenue administrations in the region. When I was in Ghana, I was responsible for six countries, initially covering both tax and customs. In my new role, I will have 13 countries, but focusing only on tax administration.
However, I will be working closely with my counterpart in customs administration as we provide assistance in other areas like strategy, management development, risk management, data analysis, and audit and compliance enforcement.
Just like in Zimbabwe, revenue administrations serve under Commissioner-Generals and have common functions for some of these areas.
The job provides me with an opportunity to share experiences with other countries in the region as we benchmark with good practices in the region, in Africa and the world at large. This is key as African countries strive to improve on domestic resource mobilisation efforts for sustainable development. The region covers Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Eswathini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Q: How can Zimbabwe benefit from your new role?
A: I am happy that as the Regional Tax Administration Advisor for AFRITAC South, I will continue supporting Zimbabwe as one of the countries I will be working with. This gives me the opportunity to support the reforms that we had started. I, therefore, see this move not as an opportunity for me personally, but for Zimbabwe and ZIMRA. It also gives me an opportunity to work with the countries I worked with in the region when I left ZIMRA: that is, South Africa and Swaziland.
Revenue administration is one of five sectors that the RTACs support, including public finance management, statistics, monetary policy and bank supervision.
It is always important that the different advisors work together to address challenges that a country is facing by providing coordinated support.
For example, the IMF considers that policies and procedures in revenue collection need to be aligned with those in areas of public finance, like expenditure control, to provide the fiscal balance.
So I will be working with my colleague advisors to provide the support that our economy needs for macroeconomic stability.
The Fund also believes in providing the support that a country feels they need and have capacity to absorb. Having worked in ZIMRA, with colleagues in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and Reserve Bank will make it easy to discuss the assistance Zimbabwe needs and how we can move forward.
Q: Any parting shots?
A: I would like to thank the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) and Government, the Minister and Secretary for Finance and Economic Development, and the ZIMRA board for the opportunity to serve as Commissioner-General. It was a real honour, and I hope I discharged my duties to the expectation of my principals.
I would also like to thank the ZIMRA executive team, management and staff for the support through my three years of service and buying into the vision I shared.
The ZIMRA family has a mammoth task to provide revenue for the country and facilitate trade.
We managed to meet and exceed revenue collection targets, and supported the Transitional Stabilisation Programme.
All these achievements were a result of the commitment and dedication of the ZIMRA team.
I wish the ZIMRA family success in delivering the Authority’s mandate and in implementing reforms to strengthen the Authority for sustainable domestic revenue mobilisation in support of Vision 2030.