‘Our first drones are landing before year end’

BY FREEMAN MAKOPA

IN its fight to improve revenue inflows into the fiscus, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has announced several measures in the past few years including the deployment of drone technology to man the country’s porous borders. A lifestyle audit has been one of the measures which have recently been supported by an Integrity Action Plan that has been meant to improve corporate governance at the revenue collector. To understand what has been happening around these key plans, our business reporter, Freeman Makopa (FM) this week caught up with Zimra’s acting commissioner general Rameck Masaira (RM, pictured) to give us an update. The Zimra boss is confident the authority is on the path to deal with vice, but most importantly, he says, the authority will soon take delivery of its first drones to scale up the war against corruption and illicit flow of goods into the country. Below are excerpts of the interview:

 FM: Zimra has announced that it is purchasing drones to curb smuggling. Have these already been bought and what impact would they have in the authority’s fight against illicit flow of goods?

  RM: The engagement of a service provider to assist in the implementation of drones is at a very advanced stage and it is expected that the first drone will be in operation before the end of this year. The use of drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as an enforcement tool will assist in curbing cross-border smuggling of goods through the country’s porous borderline and will improve revenue collections for the State, as well as eliminating the importation of undesirable, harmful and dangerous products from neighbouring countries and the world in general.

FM: Zimra has of late been marred by controversies around fraudulent cases by some of its officials.. How have you dealt with this problem?

 RM: Zimra continues to make corruption unattractive. It managed to institute the following initiatives during Q1 2021: 1.  Lifestyle audits to establish whether staff is living within its means. 2. It has been established that corruption is taking place through syndicates. Twenty-seven accused persons were arrested and faced prosecution. These comprised nine Zimra officials and 18 stakeholders.

The authority will continue reviewing its systems and the Integrity Action Plan through the established Integrity Committee in order to respond to the current integrity challenges.

The Integrity Action Plan is a proactive response to integrity issues and is fully operational.

 FM: How much is Zimra targeting to collect this quarter? Have you been seeing an improvement in revenue inflows? If so, what has been driving this rise?

 RM: There has been an increase in revenue because: the second quarterly payment date due in June is higher at 20% compared to 10% in March; consumption is expected to be high as there could be fewer disruptions to economic operations like what happened during the first quarter due to the Covid-19-related lockdown. We anticipate that employers will continue cushioning their employees or increasing salaries which will result in high disposable income in the hands of consumers.

Masaira provided the following table to businessdigest to illustrate revenue developments during the first quarter of 2021, as well as projections for the second quarter

FM: What strategies have Zimra put in place to ensure speedy revenue collection?

 RM: Enhanced publicity on Zimra Online Services and Tax Due Dates, effective debt management, risk-based audits, customs post clearance compliance enforcement and pre-clearance checks

FM: Zimra announced that it would no longer accept the lodgement of manual cargo manifests with effect from March 1, 2021. What was the reason for that and has it been implemented?

 RM: The introduction in the use of automated cargo manifests is in line with global best practises, and it also assists in the elimination of human-to-human contact particularly with the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cross border transporters are now required to lodge electronic road cargo manifests to facilitate the clearance and movement of their vehicles and cargo being conveyed.