Parly toasts to Beitbridge Border modernisation

Source: The Chronicle – Breaking news

Parly toasts to Beitbridge Border modernisation 
Zimra commissioner-general, Ms Regina Chinamasa (left) explains border operations to members of the Parliamentary Committee for Public Accounts at Beitbridge Border Post on Saturday. —Picture by Thupeyo Muleya

Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau

PARLIAMENTARIANS from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have applauded the Beitbridge modernisation projects, which include the automation of services and the separation of traffic, which has improved the Government’s capacity to collect customs related revenue.

Government and the ZimBorders Consortium have completed the transformation of the country’s busiest inland port of entry at a cost of US$300 million.

In addition to having terminals dedicated for freight, buses, light vehicles and pedestrians, services are automated and the security systems have been upgraded to use mostly biometrics to prevent undesirable people from accessing the port of entry.

The PAC members visited the border post on Saturday on an oversight role to assess the operations of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) in relation to some issues flagged by the Auditor-General.

Some of the issues include the management of State warehouses, the challenges Zimra is having in getting services from some suppliers and the management of the Temporary Imports Permits facility, among others.

PAC chairperson, Mr Charlton Hwende, said on the side-lines of the visit they had observed that the fast cargo scanners, drone surveillance technology, the sniffer dogs, the separation of traffic and the beefing up of security were contributing to Zimra’s improved revenue collection capacity.

“We came here as part of our oversight role as Parliament to verify certain issues that had been raised by the Auditor General with regards to the operations of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority,” he said.

“As you are aware two weeks ago there were several issues that were raised by the Auditor-General. These have to do with non-compliance with accounting standards and the issue to do with suppliers paid to deliver 56 cars but have only delivered 12 vehicles and various challenges.

“We did an inquiry but today we took a decision as a committee that we cannot be doing this only in Parliament hence the need to make follow up visits. So, we are verifying if what we heard in Parliament is the same as what is happening on the ground.”

“He said the team had observed improvement of revenue collection on the domestic taxes where Zimra was now using the new Tax and Revenue Management System (TaRMS), which was introduced to replace the previous system. The tax authority acquired the package that it is rolling out in phases at a cost of US$12 million.

Mr Hwende said they have also received various complaints from different tax payers and ordinary citizens with regards to Zimra operations.

“So, we are here to see it (TaRMS) physically in operation. Our observations from the presentations that were made is that there is value for money on the new system,” he said.

“We have seen that 60 percent of the revenue from Zimra is now coming through the TaRMS system, which is mainly used for domestics’ taxes.

“Revenue collection has increased and we are happy on that aspect. There were issues on the warehouse operations on goods that were confiscated for various legal reasons.”

Mr Hwende said in some instances goods were rotting in State warehouses due to the acceptable holding period of between 60 days and 90 days before they are disposed of.

He said the Parliamentarians had noted the need to review the legal time for Zimra to dispose of them off to ensure Government does not lose a lot of revenue when goods perish or get wasted while being kept pending the 90 days period.

“We are a post-audit committee and we will make recommendations and give our report to Parliament. We are happy with the new drones’ surveillance technology, use of fast cargo scanners and re-organisation of the border which plugged intrusive leakages,” said Mr Hwende.

“We are also encouraging Zimra to do due diligence so that they don’t always get adverse reports from the Auditor-General.”

Zimra Commissioner-General, Ms Regina Chinamasa, said the TaRMS system was a game-changer on revenue collection and revealed that between January and May they collected US$547 million and with levies from other taxes giving them a total of ZiG10 billion.