Customs and excise systems break down

AN erratic customs and excise online system has caused major delays in processing of imports and exports at all the country’s ports of entry.

BY OWN CORRESPONDENT

There were reports that South African Customs and Excise officials have already complained to their Zimbabwean counterparts about the delays that have caused congestion on that country’s export side.

When contacted for comment, Zimbabwe’s Customs and Excise regional manager at Beitbridge, Batsirai Chadzingwa, referred all questions to the head office in Harare where calls went unanswered.

However, NewsDay was reliably informed that the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s (Zimra) Asycuda software used for bills of entries for exports and imports developed problems on Friday last week causing the delays.

“You cannot do anything without that software, you cannot register entries for imports,” a source familiar to the system, said.

Clearing agents throughout the country’s ports could log into the customs and excise system, but failed to pass a certain stage of the formalities resulting in delays.

At Beitbridge where goods were pre-cleared, a system introduced to avoid delays, trucks were stuck on the South African side because papers have not been processed in Zimbabwe.

“South African officials have complained to our bosses about these delays,” a customs officer speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

The officer said the delays dealt a blow to the country’s revenue collection already affected by hundreds of transporters avoiding Zimbabwe’s roads due to border delays and numerous roadblocks in addition to corrupt officials.

Officials at Zimbabwe’s ports of entry have been accused of rampant corruption and demanding bribes from travellers.

Zimbabwe is losing millions of dollars in transit fees, toll fees, weight penalties to thousands of vehicles now avoiding the country in preference to a longer, but faster route passing through Botswana.

Shipping agents said it was not normal for Zimra, which administers the Department of Customs and Excise not to communicate.

“These delays have been going on since Friday, but they have not said a word,” a clearing agent said.

“Maybe they are putting up a device to register bond notes clearance from those where hard currency has been used to pay duty. It’s only a suspicion, what can we say in the absence of communication from Zimra.”

Many people were selling hard currency to get lowly-valued bond notes to pay duties, retaining United States dollars.

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