Zimra boss in trouble

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Moves are intensifying to push Commissioner-General Gershem Pasi out of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), amid reports that the board recently wrote accusing him of dragging projects crucial to the running of the authority.

Pasi has, however, denied the charge with sources close to him alleging there is a plot to block him from retaining his position as commissioner-general.

The Zimra board raised concerns over the slow implementation of critical projects that included automation, use of fiscalised tax registers, cargo tracking, a large taxpayers’ office and construction of a new Zimra head office.

The other issues raised included the inhuman treatment of travellers who were allegedly being subjected to body searches at border posts.

These issues, the Zimra boss’ allies say, were mere political machinations to ensure that Pasi did not succeed in the second round of interviews for the post which are expected soon.

In a recent interview with our sister paper (see full interview in the Friday edition of Zimbabwe Independent), Pasi said: “I am also hearing of those reports. There are processes that are ongoing at the moment and I can’t comment any further than that.”

Pasi was supposed to vacate his office at the end of January, but will now remain until the selection process is complete. He is one of the three people interviewed for the Zimra top post out of 53 applicants. The short-listing and interviews were conducted by CV People, a recruitment agency together with three Zimra board members.

Although Pasi scored high, the ministry decided to call for fresh interviews and these were supposed to have been done two weeks ago, but had to be postponed after one of the interviewees said he could not attend.

Pasi was last month reduced to a lame duck after the Ministry of Finance stripped him of all powers.

He was ordered not to continue signing as the commissioner-general and told all correspondence and business transactions would be signed by Zimra staff.

President Robert Mugabe and Finance minister Tendai Biti have already clashed over Pasi’s fate after his contract expired in October last year.

Those supporting Pasi’s stay say under his leadership, Zimra had surpassed its revenue targets, including in the third quarter of 2011.

Total net collections for the quarter amounted to
$660,7 million against a target of $654,9 million.

Cumulative net collections for 2011 were slightly less than $2 billion against a target of $1,8 billion.
Mugabe, the sources said, has made it clear to Biti that Pasi should not be fired.

“Pasi has the support of many ministers because they feel that he should not be fired for no particular reason,” a source said.

“The ministers feel that Pasi should not be blamed for Biti’s bad law (the amendments made to the Customs Act which he later reversed). It is Biti who enacted that law, not Pasi,” said one top official.

“He should have stuck to the value-based approach as was previously the case so that small items which are not for commercial use are covered under the traveller’s rebate of $300. Pasi was just implementing that bad law.”

The minister has since reversed the law, reverting back to the value-based approach.

Letters from the ministry and board no longer address Pasi as Commissioner-General but simply as “Mr”.

His name was conspicuously absent in recent Press statements on the customs clearance formalities at ports of entry.