Spurred by the need to root out graft, The Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Commissioner General John Biziwick, has vowed that the tax policing authority will take the fight against corruption to the wire and a top most priority.
The MRA boss said he has declared war against corruption and that he has made fighting smugglers and corrupt individuals as one of his cornerstones of his tenure at the tax administration organisation.
Speaking during the commemoration of the World Customs Day recently in Lilongwe, Biziwick said that the Authority will not relent in its efforts to counteract smuggling and instil integrity in MRA.
Said Bizwick: “We are leaving no stone unturned in the war against smuggling and corruption. No one will be spared. We will make every resource available including acquiring new technologies to root out the vice.”
The Commissioner General observed that the Authority has been losing substantial tax revenues through smuggling because some unscrupulous business people have been using unchartered routes to illicitly import goods into the country.
Bizwick attributed the challenge to the fact that the country’s borders are porous and some unpatriotic people take advantage of that to bring goods into the country without passing through Customs control.
Citing places such as Njonja in Dedza, Chisinga in Kasungu, Mquocha in Mzimba, Likangala in Phalombe and Kaporo in Karonga, Bizwick said described these locations as the main conduits for smugglers.
Biziwick said that due to increased cases of smuggling and conveyance, the Authority had designed tailor-made strategies to effectively deal with both technical and non-technical smuggling such as under declaration, undervaluation, misclassification, and outright smuggling through use of uncharted routes.
“We have intensified patrols through the Flexible Anti-Smuggling Teams (FAST) and mobile roadblocks. We are investing in the state-of-the-art drones and scanners to deal with the challenge,” Biziwick said.
He said the Authority has also created a Revenue Loss Prevention Unit whose mandate is to seal revenue leakage areas and recover lost revenue.
The Commissioner General also stated that the Authority is implementing the interface and exchange of information from other agencies and revenue administration so that the tax administration has advanced information to deal with falsification of documents, misclassification and undervaluation.
Biziwick said the Authority has installed CCTV cameras in all key border stations and inland stations as well as cargo tracking to monitor movements of goods.
The MRA boss, therefore, pointed out that his administration was intensifying tax education by creating awareness of dangers of smuggling among the masses and collaborating with traditional leaders along the borders to support MRA initiatives against smuggling.
“This is what Customs administrations are doing in other countries and we are doing the same here. Through the use of modern technology such as cargo scanners and drones we will be able to deter smuggling and enhance revenue collection,” he said.
Apart from fighting smuggling, Biziwick said the Authority is also dealing with corruption and fraud. He said the Authority established the Internal Affairs Division in 2013 to promote integrity and ethical behaviour among members of staff.
“We have strengthened the internal affairs division in terms of scope and numbers. We are taking the fight against fraud and corruption very seriously. Corruption benefits a few at the expense of millions of Malawians,” he said.
He appealed taxpayers to desist from bribing MRA officers for services which are otherwise free of charge.
“Our mission is to make MRA a corrupt-free zone,” Biziwick said.
Additionally, the Commissioner General said that a key aspect in dealing with corruption is in improving the welfare of members of staff by embarking on a placement exercise.
MRA management undertook a special exercise to place employees into their rightful positions as one way of promoting fairness and equity and addressing promotion concerns raised by staff.
Through the placement exercise, the Authority promoted over 830 members of staff into new and higher positions commensurate with their qualifications and experience.
“This exercise sought to promote fairness and transparency, key MRA core values and thereby place members of staff in their right positions. We had cases where people worked for 10 years or more without being promoted.
“This was counterproductive and Management addressed this issue with urgency and members of staff are happy now,” said Sarah Muskambo Jere, Acting Director of Human Resources.
Jere said the placement exercise was transparent and accountable and a special committee was set to ensure fairness.
“The placement exercise has been open, transparent and accountable. Members of staff are happy with the exercise and those who are aggrieved are being heard and their concerns addressed accordingly,” she said.
Jere said outside the placement exercise, other promotions to higher grades have been handled in the same manner of transparency and fairness without any favouritism.
The war on smuggling and corruption will obviously not gone down well with some smugglers and corrupt staff who will go to a great extent to distract such noble efforts.
However, the Commissioner General remains steadfast in the fight against smuggling, fraud and corruption.
“I have a job to do. My work is cut out for me. As MRA we want to maximise revenue collection but at the same time we want to exercise fairness, provide an excellent service and enhance integrity,” he said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :