Zimbabwe’s Deputy Finance and Economic Planning Minister Terrence Mukupe has estimated that the country has lost an estimated $20 million in revenue receipts since ZIMRA’s automated Customs processing system (ASYCUDA World) collapsed in the wake of server failure on 18 December 2017.
During a site visit of Beit Bridge border post earlier this week, it was revealed that ZIMRA collects an estimated $30million per month in Customs duties at its busy land borders. The Revenue Authority has since instituted manual procedures. Clearing agents are submitting their customs documents accompanied by an undertaking that they will honour their duties within 48 hours. That is, when the ASYCUDA system is finally resuscitated and this is totally unacceptable.
Furthermore, Zimbabwe lies at the heart of the North-South Corridor which handles a substantial volume of transit traffic. The threat of diversion due to lack of proper Customs control and opportunism will also create both a fiscal and security headache. The deputy minister stated that the government was considering abandoning the Ascyuda World Plus system to enhance efficiency and the ease of doing business. “We need to benchmark it with what our neighbours in the region are using”.
It has also been suggested that the ZIMRA board have been complacent in their oversight of the affair. While it is a simple matter to blame systems failure, the lack of management involvement in taking proactive steps to ensuring redundancy of the country’s most crucial revenue collection system has been found wanting.
This calamity undoubtedly signals a huge concern for several other African countries who are likewise supported by UNCTAD’s ASYCUDA software. Many question post implementation support from UNCTAD, leaving countries with the dilemma of having to secure third party vendor and, in some cases, foreign donor support to maintain these systems. The global donor agencies must themselves consider the continued viability of software systems which they sponsor. Scenarios such is this only serve to plunge developing countries into a bigger mess than that from which they came. This is indeed sad for Zimbabwe which was the pioneer of ASYCUDA in sub-Saharan Africa.
This development must surely be a concern not only for governments, but also the regional supply chain industry as a whole. While governments selfishly focus on lost revenue, little thought is given to the dire consequence of lost business and jobs which result in a more permanent outcome than the mere replacement of two computer servers.
Under such conditions, the WCOs slogan for 2018 “A secure business environment for economic development” will not resonate too well for Zimbabwean and other regional traders tomorrow (International Customs Day) affected by the current circumstances. Nonetheless, let this situation serve as a reminder to other administrations that management oversight and budgetary provisioning are paramount to maintaing automated systems – they underpin the supply chain as well as government’s fiscal policy.
The Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) will before the end of the year migrate from the Automated System of Customs Declaration Administration Plus (ASYCUDA) to ASYCUDA World. ASYCUDA Plus is about 25 years old and sits on very old technology. The migration to a more modern web based system would improve the processes of customs clearance. Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade acting Principal Secretary Titus Khumalo said this change would also improve data collection as well as reconciliation, particularly with the country’s major trading partner South Africa in the context of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) revenue sharing formula.
He said the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Fund had provided SRA with funding and technical assistance for the migration to take shape and be fully implemented.
“The ministry is eagerly looking forward to full implementation of the migration of ASYCUDA Plus to ASYCUDA World, which will greatly improve our systems of customs clearance. We are looking forward to implementation of the findings of the Time Release Study (TRS) which was funded by the World Bank. The TRS is aimed at improving the movement of trucks and the clearance of goods across our borders as well as in our inland and dry port in Matsapha,” he said during the International Customs Day celebrations hosted by the SRA on Friday evening at the Royal Swazi Convention Centre.
Khumalo said they welcomed the substantial progress made on the trade facilitation negotiations by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) during the ministerial conference that was held in Bali, Indonesia in December 2013. The acting PS said agreements of the meeting included transit of goods as well as fees and formalities in relation to exportation and importation. He said the framework also spoke to issues of publication and administration of trade regulations.
“Another section deals with the necessary technical assistance that may be required by developing members of the WTO including Swaziland to implement the trade facilitation agreement. We were very fortunate as a country that before the ministerial conference in Bali, we hosted a workshop with the assistance of TradeMark Southern Africa (TMSA), which focused on self-assessment and priorities for Swaziland in the area of trade facilitation in the context of the WTO negotiations,” he said.
Khumalo said the report on the workshop identified trade facilitation needs for Swaziland, which would trigger funding from cooperating partners in line with provisions of the Multilateral Trade Facilitation Agreement. Source: Swaziland Observer
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) is working in partnership with organised businesses associations in crafting a Memorandum of Understanding, creating the Zimbabwe Customs to Business Forum, an official has said. ZIMRA’s commissioner for customs and excise Mr Happias Kuzvinzwa said last week that the forum was a platform for his organisation and business to collaborate on issues of compliance, policy, capacity building, integrity and technical engagements. He was addressing delegates at the Shipping and Forwarding Agents’ Association of Zimbabwe 8th annual conference held in Beitbridge last week. Mr Kuzvinzwa said the interim steering committee was finalising the draft MoU and terms of reference.
“The forum is a prelude to the implementation of the authorised economic operator scheme. Membership of this forum is open to the businesses affiliated to recognised associations and shall be governed through a steering committee which is a higher committee, and standing committees which are lower committees chaired and constituted by both ZIMRA and business.
“The standing committees are organised in clusters for easy management of programmes. We expect all the concerned parties to sign the MoU soon upon its finalisation” he said.
Mr Kuzvinzwa added that in line with the SAFE framework of standards, ZIMRA would soon be plotting the authorised economic operators. He said the scheme sought to reward all compliant operators in the supply chain who meet the set criteria. He added that groundwork had been done and teams will be conducting stakeholder consultations and awareness workshops next month. “I would also want to urge the freight industry to embrace as a culture and operation ethos integrity, voluntary compliance, relevant competencies, and information technology.
“Missing these industry risks is being packed into the dustbin of history as you become irrelevant and classified as non-tariff barriers.” he said. Mr Kuzvinzwa added that ZIMRA was also in the process of putting in place a border agency single window through ASYCUDAworld. He said all border agencies would be connected to the workflow process through ASYCUDAworld to ensure that respective mandates are coordinated and streamlined.
“Discussions are at an advanced stage with other border agencies on the implementation of the single window and Beitbridge has been selected to pilot the programme with ZIMRA providing computer workstations at their respective offices,” he said.
Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe)