Govt introduces another SI for cross-border traders

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GOVERNMENT has reportedly introduced a central billing point at the country’s ports of entry to reduce delays caused by the cumbersome old system, where importers had to move from one department to another to make payments.

BY OWN CORRESPONDENT

Government departments at ports will, under the new arrangement, cede revenue collection to the Customs and Excise Department.

The new move is in line with Statutory Instruments 56 and 78 of 2016 of Animal Health (Import) (Amendment) Regulations (Number 6) and Public Health (Port Health) Regulations (Number 1), respectively.

It is expected the move will also streamline ports’ operations and reduce the number of undesirable elements inside the entry points including some rogue government officials, who are ripping off the public by demanding bribes.

On July 29, President Robert Mugabe promulgated the Public Health Act, otherwise known as the Port Health Regulation Number 1, authorising the Customs and Excise Department to collect revenue on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

“The expenditure recoverable in terms of section 14 shall be collected on behalf of the Ministry responsible for Health and Child Care by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority established in terms of the Revenue Authority Act (Chapter 23:11) or any other designated agent,” statutory instrument 78 of 2016 reads.

It is similar to SI 56/2016 from the minister of Agriculture and Mechanisation and Irrigation Development.

Importers coming through Zimbabwe’s ports go through cumbersome stages to pay toll fees (Beitbridge), road access fees, visa fees, port health inspection fees, agricultural import permits, Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Carbon Tax, Vehicle Inspection Department fees for overloading and transit fees for those going through Zimbabwe.

All these payments are currently being made in different government offices, where workers are at times accused of arm-twisting importers to demand bribes.

Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe (SFAZ) at Beitbridge has welcomed the development, saying it could improve efficiency.

“It was long overdue, we welcome the idea,” Beitbridge SFAZ chairperson, Steven Phiri, said.

He said Zimra officials met SFAZ last week for their input into how the new measures could be smoothly introduced.

Central cash offices with agents of various departments will be established for the commercial and motor traffic section, which deals with private imports.

The new development is, however, likely to result in a number of people employed, as runners and transport brokers losing employment.

The development comes hard on the heels of the controversial SI 64/2016, which sparked cross-border protests following the restriction of basic imports.