THE Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has told Lusaka lawyer Tutwa Ngulube that the Authority cannot disclose News Diggers! Media Limited’s tax compliance information, as demanded by his client Honeybee Pharmacy Limited, because it is confidential in nature.
In a letter addressed to Tutwa S. Ngulube & Company dated January 27, ZRA director for legal services Morgan Mukwasa stated that the law firm could not access any confidential tax information without a court order or express permission from the newspaper as a taxpayer.
“Reference is made to the above subject and your letter tsnCo/2021/lsk/vc/1 dated 22nd January, 2021, addressed to the Commissioner of Taxes. Kindly be advised that the information that your client has requested for is confidential taxpayer information that the Zambia Revenue Authority is statutorily obliged NOT to disclose to your client in the absence of a court order compelling the disclosure or a written consent from News Diggers Media Ltd, authorising the disclosure,” wrote Mukwasa in the letter which was copied to News Diggers!
On Monday, Honeybee through its lawyers had asked the Revenue Authority to provide News Diggers’ tax compliance information so that Ngulube and his law firm could analyse the records.
“We have been retained by Human Rights Observers to represent them in this manner thus, note our vested interest. As per instructions from our client we are hereby requesting information from yourselves as our clients are concerned that the News Diggers Newspaper and Mr Joseph Mwenda have who is the Editor-in-chief of the said newspaper have been defaming innocent citizens and these citizens have suffered damage and loss due to defamatory publications by the News Diggers Newspaper. Our clients are worried that while News Diggers Newspapers is creating several opportunities for being sued, for defamation and libel, it might not even be tax complaint such that should any judgment be obtained against it, the people who will obtain such judgement may fail to recover against them. Our clients have in mind a similar publication called the Post Newspaper which was declared bankrupt and wound- up leaving several judgments and other statutory obligations unattended to,” read the letter.
“We therefore request that you kindly verify for us if such a publication is in fact compliant to its statutory obligations such as Value Added Tax (herein referred to as VAT), company registration, Pay as You Earn (herein referred to as PAYE) whether they are up to date with all payments, whether they have remitted the correct amounts of tax to the collector tax. We further request that you kindly avail us with a statement of their accounts showing their payments for the last 12 months. The purpose of the print out is to analyse and critically analyse the ability by the News Diggers Newspapers to settle any judgment sums that may arise against them following the several courts actions that they are likely to face in line with their defamatory remarks against Honeybee Pharmacy and many others. We humbly request that you furnish us with the above information as it is very critical and vital to our clients. Your quickest response to our letter will be highly appreciated. Please acknowledge safe receipt by signing a copy of the same.”
The law firm sent similar letters to the National Pension Scheme Authority and the National Health Insurance Management.
Of these institutions, only NAPSA wrote to Diggers a few days after receiving Ngulube’s letter, saying inspectors would be sent to obtain information on payroll and other compliance measurement tools within the next seven days.
Honeybee, the company that supplied toxic drugs and defective condoms to the Ministry of Health under a US $17 million tender, is seeking to close News Diggers! using tax compliance, if the newspaper continues refusing to retract the revelations contained in its investigation.
The company also issued News Diggers! another 48 hours ultimatum in which to apologise for publishing the said articles before it is forced to pay US $200 million and be declared bankrupt.
However, News Diggers! Managing Director Joseph Mwenda stated that the newspaper would not waste time responding to Honeybee because it already gladly accepted the legal challenge.