BY REX MPHISA
THE Beitbridge Border Post accounts for 60% of the country’s revenue, raising a total of between $4 million and $5 million a day, Parliament was told on Monday.
Collections could be better, but an acute shortage of manpower and staff accommodation strains Zimbabwe’s busiest port, where on average seven officers handle up to 7 000 travellers per shift, the regional manager of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority at Beitbridge, Innocent Chikuni, said.
He was briefing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance, Budget and Economic Development, which was in Beitbridge on a fact-finding assignment.
“We are doing well on revenue collection, with figures of between $4 million and $4,5 million a day,” Chikuni said, and went on to explain work strain due to reduced manpower, which results in the office failing to maximise collections possible, had it been properly staffed to carry out 100% searches to ensure compliance.
Chikuni said the compliance section, manned by five officers per shift, handled 80 buses a day, making it impossible to do maximum searches.
The commercial section is assisted by inland clearing done in Masvingo, Bulawayo and Harare, while physical examinations of goods is at Beitbridge.
“We handle 400 commercial entries a day, meaning 12 000 entries in a month,” Chikuni said.
Customs does an average of 53 physical examinations per day, including attending to numerous imported car valuations by 12 of its officers.
Of late, vehicle imports had plummeted owing to the introduction of duty in foreign currency.
While at the border efforts to curb smuggling were on peak, a porous border, ineffectively patrolled due to lack of resources, was responsible for leakages.
Zimra has only seven running vehicles out of the 18 assigned to Beitbridge, Chikuni said, adding that border patrols were not possible due to staff misfits.
“There is a serious misfit between workload and staff, and we rent between 25 and 36 rooms at what used to be Holiday Inn,” he said.
“Customs was short of storage after its warehouses were burnt.”
Zimra board chairperson Callisto Jokonya appealed to the committee to recommend a supplementary budget in order to upgrade his organisation’s operations.
“Zimra operations develop trade, they develop the transport and manufacturing industries. So, it’s important to have its (Zimra) systems working. We are meeting targets, but we could improve,” Jokonya said.
He asked the parliamentary committee to recommend adequate funding to oil up Zimra operations, saying for effective patrols, the department needed 50 vehicles.
Chairperson of the visiting parliamentary committee, Felix Mhona, said the fact that 95% of his team had come to Beitbridge reflected the importance they attached to the border town.
“We are aware (that Beitbridge) it’s pivotal and this is where the nation looks upon. As such, our report to Parliament will carry the value Beitbridge deserves,” Mhona said.