WCO reviews Zimbabwe’s Authorized Economic Operator Framework

ZIMRA AEOFollowing an invitation from Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), WCO successfully completed a review of Zimbabwe’s Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) pilot and developed a series of recommendations for a “next generation” AEO programme that takes into account the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards, the WCO Voluntary Compliance Framework and best practices from other WCO members, as outlined in the WCO AEO Compendium. The mission, which took place between July 18 and 22, built on the March 2016 Mercator scoping mission, which established a multi-year framework of support for Zimbabwe under the tailor-made track of the Mercator Programme and was delivered with the financial and technical support of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

A total of 20 representatives from ZIMRA and 15 trade representatives, participated in a facilitated dialogue which provided the mission team with a comprehensive overview of ZIMRAs’ current AEO programme, while raising awareness and understanding of relevant international standards and best practices. Based on the review, the mission team identified a series of future capacity building activities and deliverables, which can be supported under the current multi-year Mercator Programme engagement with Zimbabwe. The WCO looks forward to continued collaboration with ZIMRA and HMRC and UNCTAD in the implementation of this plan. Source: WCO

1st WCO East and Southern Africa Regional Research Conference held in Harare

WCOThe first World Customs Organization (WCO) East and Southern Africa (ESA) Research Conference took place in Harare, Zimbabwe on 4-5 June 2014. The event was organized by the WCO ESA Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) and hosted by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) provided funding.

Opening remarks were delivered by Ms. Christine Msemburi, the Executive Director for the WCO ESA ROCB in Nairobi, Kenya; Mrs. Anna Mutobodzi, the Acting Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority; Mr. Happias Kuzvinzwathe, Customs Commissioner of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority; Mr. Robert Ireland, the Head of the WCO Research Unit in Brussels, Belgium; and Professor C. Hope Sadza, Founder and Founding Vice Chancellor of the Women’s University of Africa.

Following their selection in response to a Call for Papers, eight research papers were presented at the conference by representatives of Customs administrations, the private sector, and academia from the ESA region. The research focused on topics linked to trade facilitation, including information and communications technology (ICT), risk management, transit systems, measurement, and Customs-Business partnerships. The research papers will be consolidated and published in an e-book.

The work of the researchers was supervised by Mr. Creck Buyonge, Adjunct Associate Professor (Revenue & Customs) at the Centre for Customs & Excise Studies, University of Canberra, and Mr. Mark Goodger a lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban) and the University of Cape Town.

Ms. Msemburi congratulated the researchers for their sustained efforts and contributions to building knowledge on Customs matters in the region. “We need to be ruthless and honest as we write about ourselves so that we build a factual body of knowledge in Customs for East & Southern Africa” said Ms. Msemburi.

Mr. Ireland commended Ms. Msemburi for her leadership in organizing the conference. “This successful event is another step forward for the global Customs community in conducting research through systematic inquiry and consideration of local conditions in order to better inform policy formulation and implementation” said Mr. Ireland. Source: WCO

Zimbabwe Car Imports Up 23 Percent

Secondhand Cars ZimbabweVehicle imports through the Beitbridge Border Post increased by 23 percent between January and May this year compared to the same period last year, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority has said. The increase is attributed to the price freeze of vehicles in South Africa and also the exorbitant prices of vehicles on the local market. Prices of second hand vehicles in South Africa have remained stable for the past 12 months. It costs on average US$7 000 to buy a second hand modest car from South Africa and at least US$20 000 and above to buy a similar car on the local market.

Figures from Zimra show that a total of 14 114 vehicles have been imported through Beitbridge between January 1 and May 31, 2013 compared to 10 851 vehicles during the same period last year.

Investigations by Herald Business show that on average Zimra clears a total of 1 500 cars per month at Manica bonded warehouse, and the figure has increased to between 2 000 and 3 500.

A total of between 15 and 25 car carriers offload vehicles at Manica daily. Zimra’s legal and corporate affairs director Ms Florence Jambwa said that most of the cars were coming from Japan via Durban, South Africa.

“There has been a marked increase of motor vehicle imports at Beitbridge Border Post this year as compared to the year 2012.

“The month of January had the lowest number of imports (1 194) while the month of May had the highest number (3 706), in fact there has been an increase every month.

“You will note that imports of motor vehicles through Beitbridge are increasing as such the work load increases.

“However, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority employs several strategies to curb challenges at the border post mainly through embracing modern technological innovations such as the use of scanners and the ASYCUDA World system which is Internet-based,” said Ms Jambwa.

She said they had already addressed the challenges that were affecting the processing of vehicle imports at Beitbridge border post. Early this year there had been an outcry over the slow processing of vehicle imports at Manica where importers were spending around two days to complete the processes with Zimra. On average it should take less than one and half hours per vehicle if correct documentation was made available. She said they had no backlogs in terms of printing the customs clearance certificates for all newly imported vehicles.

Herald Business is reliably informed that plans are underway to have a cash office at the bonded warehouse and the authority has been encouraging its clients to make their payments through the bank and avoid carrying cash. Source: Zimbabwe Herald

ASYCUDA – more technical glitches

In the waiting... vehicle queue at Beitbridge

In the waiting… vehicle queue at Beitbridge

Scores of car importers were left stranded at Beitbridge Border Post on Wednesday after the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority‘s (Zimra) vehicle clearance system went offline for eight hours.

Zimra introduced the ASYCUDA plus system for processing vehicle imports in March this year in a bid to ensure efficiency and reduce regular interface between the customs officers and its clients. Asycuda is (Automated System for Customs Data) is a more efficient and advanced system for customs data processing since it is internet based. Upon its introduction the system left little room for wheeling and dealing between Zimra employees and criminals.

However, connectivity has remained a major challenge at the Manica Bonded warehouse where vehicle imports are processed. When The Herald visited the bonded warehouse yesterday restless car importers were seen moving around the yard while others were making numerous inquiries from the Zimra help desk.

In separate interviews motorists advised the revenue authorities to consider having a back-up plan in case of the Asycuda system breakdown. He said it was worrying that the revenue authority had introduced the Asycuda system yet they had little capacity to sustain it.

It was the second time in a week that the Asycuda system went offline after operations came to a standstill on Friday last week. Prior to the introduction of Asycuda system, Zimra had been using a station based system which operated with very few technical glitches.

Figures from Zimra show that between 60 and 100 vehicle imports are processed at Manica per day and rise to 120 during peak times. Asycuda system is connected to the parastatal’s national grid which is accessible at any of its stations countrywide. Efforts to get a comment form Zimra spokesperson were fruitless. Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Beit Bridge – ZIMRA and Immigration gear up for congestion

beitbridge

Beitbridge – crossing the Limpopo river

The Department of Immigration in Beitbridge has put in place mechanisms aimed at dealing with congestion at the country’s busiest border post in anticipation of an increase in the volume of traffic during the festive period. Assistant regional immigration manager in charge of Beitbridge Border Post, Mr Charles Gwede, said they have since held a series of meetings with key stakeholders and their South African counterparts to address congestion at the border.

“We have started preparing for the festive period in anticipation of a huge influx of travellers and all necessary strategies are now in place to help speed up the clearance of people during the festive period,” he said. “We are suspending leave and off-days for staff between 15 December and 16 January next year.

“As part of our decongestion drive we will scramble our shifts to maximise on manpower during the normal and extra peak days. In fact, starting from 15 December we expect a huge influx of travellers hence between 14 and 17 December, 21 and 24 December and 4 to 7 January, we will dissolve our shifts to ensure that we have more officers per shift who would effectively manage the queues and speed up the clearance process,” he said.

Mr Gwede said they were expecting 20 officers from other stations to beef up the local staff and ensure that all check points and counters were adequately manned. Beitbridge Border Post has a staff complement of 47 officers and support staff.

“As border stakeholders, we held several inter-border meetings with our South African counterparts to discuss and explore ways and strategies aimed at dealing with congestion during extra peak periods.

As part of their decongestion strategy, Mr Gwede said they would categorise travellers and create more counters to reduce queues. According to statistics, immigration officials at the border handled 73 825 travellers between Monday and Wednesday on both arrival and departure sides.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) spokesperson, Mr Canisio Mudzimu, said they would deploy relief officers to Beitbridge Border Post to beef up the local staff and help speed up the customs clearance process. “We are geared up in terms of facilitating the smooth movement of both human and vehicular traffic passing through Beitbridge Border Post during the festive season. We will deploy extra officers from less busy stations to Beitbridge Border Post during the festive period and to assist in border operations,” he said.

Beitbridge Border Post requires at least 247 customs officers to man it. The border post, which is the country’s busiest inland port of entry, has an establishment 141 officers. Mr Mudzimu said they would create separate traffic lanes to cater for tourists, returning residents, private motorists, commercial, buses and pedestrians to speed up the flow of traffic and reduce congestion.

Touts and bogus clearing agents continue to find their way into the customs yard where they would swindle unsuspecting travellers of their money under the guise of offering assistance. Beitbridge is the busiest inland port of entry in sub-Saharan Africa, which handles a huge volume of both human and vehicular traffic passing though daily. Commercial trucks destined for East and Central African countries such as Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia also pass through the border post.

On a normal day, the border handles between 6 000 and 8 000 travellers daily with the figures rising to 20 000 during the peak period. Source: Bulawayo24.com

Zim Police make yet another cigarette bust

Beit Bridge Borderpost, Zimbabwe

Police in Beitbridge have recovered yet another consignment of cigarettes worth US$20 000 in Tshapfuche as they intensify their anti smuggling operation. The stash destined for export was recovered last Friday morning following the discovery of other contraband shipment worth almost US$500 000 in the same area the previous day.

Countries of the South African Customs Union (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland) charge high duties on cigarettes, meaning that even those bought retail in Zimbabwe can be sold for good profit in South Africa.

The police officer commanding Beitbridge district Chief Superintendent Lawrence Chinhengo said the second stash was recovered at the homestead of a security guard they had earlier on arrested.

The security guard was part of the three suspects who were arrested while looking after the “merchandise” at Edzisani Muleya’s homestead. Chief Supt Chinhengo said the suspect had hid 33 boxes at his sister’s homestead while he kept another 72 boxes at his house.

Three hundred and eleven boxes of Remmington Gold, 442 Cevils, 221 Dullas and 107 Newbury cigarettes worth US$500 000 were last week recovered from Muleya’s homestead. Police say the house had become an illegal transit warehouse.

Muleya has since gone into hiding and police have launched a manhunt. Chief Supt Chinhengo said the Ferret squad, made up of the ZRP, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and other security agents raided the homestead on Thursday afternoon during an operation code-named Sukani Emanzini (Get out of the Limpopo River). Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe)

US$500 000 cigarette bootleg seized in raid

Police and Zimra officials remove cigarettes from an illegal “warehouse” in Tshapfuche, Beitbridge

Zimbabwean Customs and Police have smashed a cigarette smuggling syndicate and recovered a bootleg of export quality cigarettes worth almost US$500 000 in Tshapfuche. The 1 081 boxes of assorted local cigarettes brands were kept at Edzisani Muleya’s homestead. Police said the house had become an illegal transit warehouse.

Muleya disappeared and police have since launched a manhunt. The Ferret squad, made up of the ZRP, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and other security agents raided the homestead on Thursday afternoon during an operation code-named Sukani Emanzini (Get out of the Limpopo River). Two men and a woman were arrested after police found them taking a nap on top of the cigarette boxes. The suspects kept their “merchandise” in five rooms. By end of day on Thursday, armed police had cordoned off the homestead. Several homesteads in the area were deserted when police arrived.

Police believe the homestead was a transit point for criminals who would then smuggle the cigarettes into South Africa through the Limpopo River. They said South Africa is a choice destination for regional cigarette smugglers who repackage them for export to Asia and other European markets. Another 107 boxes of Newbury cigarettes were recovered in Lutumba on the same day. Police intercepted a suspect attempting move the contraband to “safety”.

Police officer commanding Beitbridge district Chief Superintendent Lawrence Chinhengo yesterday said the raids were made after a tip-off. He said they recovered 311 boxes of Remmington Gold, 442 Cevils, 221 Dullas and 107 Newbury cigarettes. “We received a tip-off to the effect that Edzisani Muleya’s homestead in Tshapfuche area had been turned into an illegal warehouse for cigarettes”.

“We then raided the area on Thursday afternoon, where we found two men who had been hired as security guards sleeping on top of the boxes.” Chief Supt Chinhengo said police recovered documents with the movement, list of suppliers and other people who are part of the syndicate. He said investigations were under way. Last week, a 43-year-old Malawian trucker was fined US$1 000 for attempting to smuggle 262 boxes of export quality cigarettes worth US$35 000 through Beitbridge Border Post. Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Exporters Blast ZIMRA and RBZ Red Tape

 

Zimbabwe‘s export procedures have come under severe criticism as they are said to be contributing to the country’s poor export performance. Local manufacturers have lamented delays in documents processing by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, which they say is constraining the movement of goods into regional and international markets.

Latest official statistics show that the country’s trade deficit stands at around US$2,9 billion due to the underperformance of the export sector. Surface Investments executive director Mr Narottam Somani says although they have lodged complaints with ZIMRA over the issue there have been no positive outcome.

“The CD1 approval procedures and ZIMRA Bill of entry procedures are too lengthy and as such they spoil the whole momentum of exports. Government, ZIMRA and the RBZ need to appreciate the value of reducing period of these procedures. “We have engaged officials from ZIMRA and the RBZ over the need to file our CD1 and bill of entry forms online which will help reduce the time period to one day. They say that they appreciate our concerns but nothing has materialised,” he said. (Note for South African readers – CD1 refers to a ZIM exchange control document and not the SARS’ new electronic declaration form)

Surface Investments is the country’s largest multi-oilseed processing firm and it exports crude oil to Malawi and cotton linters, and cotton hulls to South Africa and Europe.

Both exporters and importers contend that the country’s export transit procedures have not improved significantly despite ZIMRA’s rollout from last year of the ASYCUDA World version 4.0.21 to over 14 of its stations. Implementation of the system was largely expected to expedite clearance procedures at the country’s border posts. ASYCUDA 2.3 was the earliest version to be introduced in Zimbabwe in 1992 and was upgraded to versions 2.5 and 2.7. ASYCUDA++ later came on board in the form of version 1.15 and 1.18. An expert in the field of transit procedures yesterday said improving these processes would take a wider regional approach.

“Transit operations of most countries in the region typically suffer from a number deficiencies such as lack of simplified and standardised customs procedures, documents and data processing that generally yield costly implications such as delays at border posts, opportunities for theft and corruption practices, and inflated transit transport costs.

“The key area that needs to be addressed therefore relate to regional harmonisation of transit procedures.” Source: The Herald (Harare)

 

ZIMRA, Business to form Customs Forum

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)

Heartless!

Fellow blogger ZIMDEV paints a bleak picture for casual cross border traders – Cross border trade has been the lifeline for many unemployed Zimbabweans who make a living buying and selling goods from various neighbouring countries. Late last year, the Zimbabwean government together with the Zimbabwe Revenue authority have introduces a ban on the use of the $300 rebate on most goods. The new tariffs are quite steep and leave no room for profit for the traders. Cross border traders, fed the nation when Zimbabwean shops were empty. They travel across borders, bringing in goods that are not available in Zimbabwe and play a vital role in the economy. One visit to Beitbridge will prove just how vital the cross border trade is to Zimbabwe. It is disheartening to see the government’s reaction to cross border trade.

Instead of enabling and facilitating trade, the government is stifling and discouraging trade and enterprise. Importers of blankets, footwear, refrigerators, stoves and other electrical gadgets now pay 40% of the purchasing price plus a flat rate of US$5 per unit as duty. Government is also now charging between 10% and 25% duty on basic commodities such as maize meal, cooking oil, potato chips, baked beans and mixed fruit jam. The consignment of goods is also charged according to the weight of the goods, each kilo being charged at $3. Cross border trade has been dealt a heavy blow.

While continental and regional efforts wax lyrical about future ‘free trade’ in the Africa, domestic efforts and policy appear to be in contradiction, or perhaps the political utterances at regional trade and AU conferences are mere hot air!  Read the full article here! Surely this should be a case for closer diplomatic collaboration between Zimbabwe and its neighbours, or are the ‘cross border traders’ the enemy?

Zimbabwe Industry slams ASYCUDA

With much talk of intra-African trade, perhaps its a good time to consider increased collaboration between customs administrations regarding modernisation initiatives. It helps little for trade if the system only works on one side of the border. The case in point demonstrates a painful realization of too little mediation with stakeholders.

THE Zimbabwe Revenue Authority‘s introduction of the latest version of an automated customs clearance management system has brought industry to its knees as goods in transit are stuck at the country’s ports. The system challenges at Zimbabwe’s ports is particularly worrisome for importers as the majority are set to close shop today for the festive season. ASYCUDA is an acronym for Automated System for Customs Data, an automated customs clearance management system.

The Shipping and Forwarding Agents’ Association of Zimbabwe (Sfaaz) held a crisis meeting in Harare, where they intended to engage the Ministry of Finance and Zimra officials who had been invited. Ministry of Finance and Zimra officials were, however, conspicuous by their absence. Sfaaz chairman Mr Phanuel Gukwe said the system, whose implementation commenced in October, had significantly slowed down clearance procedures. “There is perennial breakdown of operations at most ports, which means no imports are coming out of Zimra, funds are locked in prepayment accounts and turnaround of bill of entries is taking up to two weeks instead of the normal three hours.

“Contrary to expectations when Zimra proposed the system, the situation at ports has worsened drastically,” he said. The situation at the country’s ports, which is now in its third month, might have implications on the revenue collection targets for the fourth quarter, especially in terms of excise duty, import duty and customs tax.

Questions sent to Zimra were unanswered by the time of publication yesterday. ASYCUDA 2.3 was the earliest version to be introduced in Zimbabwe in 1992 and was upgraded to versions 2.5 and 2.7. ASYCUDA++ later came on board in the form of version 1.15 and 1.18. Currently, Zimra is rolling out ASYCUDA World version 4.0.21 to over 14 stations.

Mr Gukwe said Zimra had ignored the association’s earlier proposal to stagger the implementation of the new system. “We had proposed to Zimra to follow the example of South Africa, which undertook to implement the system at limited ports at a time, but they rather chose to go wholesale. Zimra also ignored us when we pressed them for a fallback system to be put in place,” he said.

The Wednesday crisis meeting, that was emotionally charged, saw importers level a range of accusations against Zimra. Some said Zimra had only two examining officers at some border posts, which means the slow clearance was an issue not just of failure in connectivity but also manpower shortages. It was also observed that when clients of local importers called Zimra to find out about the system challenges, Zimra officials were telling them that problems with the system had since been rectified, a situation that was portraying the local importers in bad light.

“I do not think it is legal for Zimra officials to be discussing these matters with our clients, they should only communicate with those who put in the bill of entry,” said one Sfaaz member. Others accused Zimra for being nonchalant. “Zimra should be taking responsibility on this matter. They could have at least eased our plight by arranging for the reduction or waiving of storage fees. We are paying some serious money for storage for weeks on end, which is driving up our landing costs,” said an importer.

Observers warn that if the problem continues, it could have wider repercussions on the economy, which is still a net importer of most goods. Meanwhile, Sfaaz officials were yesterday engaged in a closed door meeting with top Zimra officials over the matter. Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe)