THE current system breakdown of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra)’s Customs and Excise online system is inflicting millions of dollars in revenue loss and is far hurting than what meets the eye, a revenue expert said yesterday.
BY OWN CORRESPONDENT
Formerly employed by the revenue collector for more than 20 years, the expert told NewsDay on condition of anonymity that the timing of the faults also showed lack of planning and improper administration by Zimra.
“Frankly, there is no money from imports and exports going to government. There is no revenue collection through this channel,” the expert said.
Zimra’s Automated Systems for Customs Data also known as Asycuda World used for Customs and Excise processing has been down for three weeks, with no sign of it coming back online any time soon.
“The online system registers what government is collecting and it keeps records of what money shipping agents have deposited with Customs and Excise to clear imports and exports which is not possible as we speak,” said the expert now running a private shipping house.
“Imports are recorded on bills of entries prepared and submitted online through Asycuda World.
“Accredited shipping agents access Customs through Asycuda to process their declarations of goods with pre-deposited funds automatically credited to Customs by Asycuda World and it is that system that is down, leaving shipping houses unable to access their funds deposited with Zimra.
“They are now asking us to pay deposits equivalent to the duty due, which is like paying duty twice which is not feasible,” said the expert.
“Zimra is not telling the nation the truth, but we are in a crisis. They were not prepared for this,” said the expert as he attempted to log into the Zimra system which continuously said “server not found.”
“Their servers are old and fully loaded. They rely on one service provider unlike their counterparts across the border (South Africa). They should have long upgraded but those at head office might be sleeping on duty.”
He said after the merger of Taxes and Customs, administrators of the new parastatal dismissed trained Customs and excise officers, but they failed to run a smooth system.
“There were internationally-trained ICT technicians who were fired by the new system which it is failing to replace,” he said mentioning some technicians by names.
Zimra spokesperson Canisius Mudzimu yesterday acknowledged the problem, but could not divulge what had gone wrong.
He said to mitigate against these challenges, Zimra had put in place interim interventions to ensure that delays in clearances at ports of entry are minimised and that there is continuity in the clearance of travellers.
“This includes the implementation of measures in line with the Authority’s Business Continuity Plan to ensure clearance of travellers and commercial cargo,” he said.
As part of the interim measures for the clearance of commercial cargo, where importers/clearing agents are able to show or prove that the required duties and taxes have been paid into the Zimra prepayment account, such consignments are being released on the basis of such proof.
NewsDay understands this proof can only be found if the online system is up.
“The interim measures are yielding positive results as delays in clearance of travellers and cargo continues to reduce significantly,” Mudzimu said, although shipping agents and haulage truckers refuted this.
Mudzimu apologised for the delays and added that Zimra was working tirelessly to ensure that the system stabilises and asked the public to be patient in the meantime.