Harare: Persistant problems with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra)’s new clearance system have forced the revenue collector’s board to intervene and stop the chaos characterising the country’s various ports of entry. Zimra board chairman Sternford Moyo told the Daily News that Zimra directors were due to visit Beitbridge during Easter holidays to conduct a “thorough” physical assessment of administrative measures at the border post.
Beitbridge is one of the Sadc region’s busiest border posts and is heavily affected by the clearance system problems.
“We could have gone to Beitbridge last week but we realised Easter was the nearest busy period so we had to wait so that we get a full appreciation of the situation,” said Moyo. “As far as border problems are concerned, you may be aware that during its recent work, the board created the post of commissioner customs, which separates the administration of customs and trade facilitation from domestic taxes.
“The board felt that it was important for customs and trade facilitation to have a dedicated resource at the highest possible level within the authority,” Moyo said. “Furthermore, the board has one of the highest resources within the authority permanently stationed at Beitbridge to ensure that challenges experienced at that border post are given attention at the highest level,” he added.
The board also reduced the number of commissioners dedicated to serve Zimra’s internal requirements by abolishing the posts of legal services commissioner and human resources commissioner and creating room for a customs commissioner and an investigations commissioner.
Zimra introduced a new clearance system called Automated System for Customs Data (Asycuda) towards the end of 2011 to improve service delivery at the country’s borders, but it has instead proved to be a nuisance for travellers and businesspeople.
Travellers are now required to register their entire luggage before they get to the border to facilitate easy clearance, but observers say the move is ill-advised as it can only work conveniently with haulage truck operators.
Stakeholders, including the Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe, say the customs clearance delays are costing industry huge money as business pays vast handling and storage fees at the borders.
Zimra’s perennial customs problems, together with the flawed system have affected trade between Zimbabwe and international partners. The African Development Bank (AfDB) reported in its January 2012 Zimbabwe Monthly Economic review that trade volumes slowed down towards the end of 2011 because of problems with the new system.
Imports stood at about $200 million in November 2011 compared to about $1,4 billion the previous month.
“Adaption to the new system proved difficult, resulting in congestion at the country’s borders and inability of imported products to get in to the country. It is thus, not surprising that towards the end of the year, there was a significant drop in the levels of imports into the country."
“While there had been a general upward trend in imports over the previous year (2010), November 2011 saw imports dropping by over 75 percent from the 2010 level,” read the AfDB report.