For starters, the country’s sole tax administration agency otherwise known as Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) was established by an Act of Parliament in 1998 and was launched in February 2000 to enhance capacity for economic growth in the country.
Among its vast responsibilities is the legal and moral mandate it has of ensuring that it earns trust and confidence from the taxpayers be it individuals or institutions and organisations.
However, a thorough look into the activities of MRA, specifically in the past three years, there is depreciatory evidence without any grain of doubt that the institution mostly regarded as backbone of Malawi in terms of its budgetary support, has been subjected to abuse by becoming a haven for incompetent management.
It is uncontested fact that MRA is government’s key source of revenue for national activities and national development.
As such, it would not make any sense to analyse the obnoxious performance of the tax collector the past three years without highlighting the role the head of the institution Lloyd Muhara has played in his three-year stint at the helm as MRA’s commissioner general.
Basically, the commissioner general is required to provide leadership and strategic planning to ensure that he is continuously enhancing the operational capacity of the institution hence attracting public faith, trust and confidence by implementing policies that are fathomable to the public.
For all this to be successfully realised, the commissioner general has a responsibility to ensure that he has a team of employees with right skills, experience and adequate technological back-up for the purpose of operations.
However, looking at the path MRA under Muhara has passed through, it does not need a Harvard professor to come to the conclusion that the country’s strategic institution either abdicated its responsibility or was full of dead wood.
All hell began to break loose in 2009 when MRA underwent colossal restructuring soon after Muhara took over the mantle of the institution replacing James Phiri. To the designers this was intended for the purpose of enhancing organisational performance and capacity, well and good.
But what transpired afterwards was a mere myopia. At the end of day, the new administration used the mop-up exercise to get rid of people they regarded noxious basing on tribe and political affiliation.
Upon realising that the restructuring process was overdone, the management hastily and hypocritically went berserk and started hiring new members of staff.
As if that is not enough, the old guards that survived the chop were left severely breeding to death as Muhara approved upgrading which is said to have been not on merit.
This according to other employees, who assisted in providing inside information, is the reason behind scaling down of work morale as well as rampant corruption.
Looking at the way the retrenchment was handled, it gives room for one to come to the conclusion that Muhara and his top management, in this case, the commissioner of domestic tax and commissioner of tax and excise, who coincidentally share the same tribal vein are short-sighted and inept.
Just for argument ‘s sake, the appointment of current commissioner of customs and excise Shadreck Namalomba was never short of controversy in first instances. It has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that Namalomba was appointed without meeting requirements for the job, where applicants were required to be a holder of masters in trade and ten years’ experience in customs, something the bachelor of administration holder and a sheer pursuant of master’s degree does not have.
To make matters worse advertisement of the vacancy was only carried out in The Guardian newspaper owned by the Mutharika family ignoring the country’s largest papers in terms of circulation like The Nation and The Daily Times. How management reached at the conclusion of advertising the vacancy of the strategic post in a paper that belongs to the then ruling elite is topic for another discussion.
It is during the stewardship of Muhara and company that saw the implementation of illegal taxes like capital gains tax where MRA taxed investors despite cleat evidence that they have made losses, this in a way was both legally and morally incorrect.
As man in charge, the commissioner general has the responsibility to negotiate with the treasury department on how to formulate tax administration policies that are not harmful to citizens.
Because of incompetent handling of tax administration, the end result has been insatiable invasion of taxes on part of local and international traders thereby rendering the ongoing economic malaise
as sheer manmade, with MRA under Muhara being the main culprit.
With such grave inexperience as evidenced by the way things have been at Msonkho House within a three-year period, it therefore does not come as a surprise when a person of Malawi’s purse handler Dr. Ken Lipenga’s calibre makes a rare public admission that MRA indeed borrowed money amounting to a yelling MK15 billion from commercial banks just to paint a rosy picture that Malawi’s economic trajectory was on right track.
Lipenga has even went further to say MRA has on a number of occasions cheated on tax revenue performance by borrowing to bridge shortfalls.
Meanwhile, Malawians are anxiously waiting to see how the new bloom in this regard president Mrs. Joyce Banda would come to the rescue of the already complicated situation by appointing level headed people to professionally head the institution in order to provide leadership, strategic direction and control of the tax agency so that it realises its mission of maximising revenue collection through fair, efficient and transparent administration of Malawi tax and Customs laws while providing high quality service to all taxpayers.
The nation, among the many yet-to-be commissioned inquiries, is also waiting with baited breath to hear how the electricity bill was assented to by late Bingu wa Mutharika when the bill was not even tabled in parliament?
The nation is also waiting to hear the truth about how late Mutharika abused his power to pardon Clerk of Parliament Matilda Katopola who was never brought before the courts of Malawi in a case that came to be called Monick Trends?
In our story MRA mediocre performance under microscope we erroneously indicated that the story was authored by Taonga Sabola. The matter of fact is that the story was written by Taonga Botolo. We sincerely regret any inconveniences caused-Editor