MRA playing hide-and-seek over crooked tax invaders

Tax collector, Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) is playing-hide-and-seek and seems to be persistently dilly-dallying to provide requested information to Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) in accordance with the law, regarding a tax record remittance for dodgy company known as Stallion Investment.

HRDC is demanding MRA to provide information about Stallion Investment tax remittance record in accordance with the law on Freedom of Information Act.

Earlier this year in May the human rights watchdog wrote the MRA Commissioner General John Bizwick requesting for the said information following allegations that owners of the Lilongwe-based business had been evading tax and wanted to be furnished with the information about how that company has been invading tax and for how much.

MRA Director General John Bizwick

However, the MRA commissioner general promised on May 5 2021, the day he received the demand, to respond to HRDC soon but it has been more than a month now since then and HRDC seem agitated with the development has forced HRDC to follow up their request, which they said would help them to verify the tax evasion allegations before making informed decisions on its whistle-blowing initiative.

In a statement signed by HRDC national chairperson, Gift Trapence and made available to Nyasa Times, the human rights defenders asked MRA to make available information on whether Stallion Investment is a legit company and whether or not has physical registered offices for its operations in the country.

“HRDC seeks this information from your office following the right under Section 37 of the Constitution as read with the Access to Information Act, Act No. 17 of 2017,” reads HRDC letter addressed to Bizwick dated June 16 2021 and copied to director general of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

In an interview Trapence said HRDC will on behalf of Malawians keep pressing MRA to release the information in line with the law on access to information as Malawian have the right to know public institutions are conducting matters on their behalf.

Said Trapence: “The law allows us to request any information from public institutions for transparency’s sake. We have been asking for this information for over a month and it looks like someone somewhere hiding the truth, but we will get down to the bottom of it all,” said Trapence.

The MRA boss, John Biziwick, was not readily available to comment on the matter when contacted on Friday.

Trapence: Give us the information

However, Trapence said in an interview that as an institution of integrity and high repute, they expected MRA to respond to their letter.

“That is why we have written a follow up letter as a reminder knowing that it’s an urgent matter. We expect MRA to act swiftly. As a professional and efficient institution, they are supposed to timely respond to any communication,” Trapence said.

Trapence said if MRA has nothing sinister to hide then they should give us the requested information for it is in the interest of the public to know.

said Trapence: “We should not be looking like we are begging or asking for a favour from MRA. We are not begging anyone for a favour, we are just doing what we are supposed to do – fighting on behalf of Malawians for what the Constitution guarantees that ordinary citizen should have access to information through the Freedom of information Act.

Human Rights and Social Justice commentator and private practice lawyer, John-Gift Mwakhwawa said if the law gives the people an access of information or gives them the powers to request to request for information.

said Mwakhwawa: “In this case, MRA needs to fulfil its legal obligation by furnishing HRDC with the information they are demanding. They should stop playing games and do what the law demands.

Mwakhwawa: MRA must give the information

In March this year, HRDC also wrote ACB director general demanding investigations into allegations of duty evasion and bribing of MRA officers by the Zomba-based H. Adam Wholesalers Neferius.

In their letter, HRDC claimed they had received reports of allegations that Sir H Adam and sons of Zomba, who owned H Adam and Wholesalers Neferius, had been trying to bribe MRA officers to evade paying taxes.

Last month, MRA also pounced on five top managers of Mapeto David Whitehead and Sons for offences bordering on tax evasion.

These included director Faisal Gaffar Latif, managing director Mohamed Gaffar, financial controller Abdul Rashid Bakali, procurement manager Yaseen Muhammad and general manager Martin Mpata. Their case is in court.

Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) recently pounced on Mapeto David Whitehead and Sons (DWS) and arrested top five senior officials for multiple cases of alleged tax evasion estimated at K10.8 billion.

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