THE Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has attributed the lack of matching records of customs clearance of 33,045 motor vehicles to lack of integration between the Authority and RTSA systems as well as lack of professionalism among some clearing agents and officers.

Government recently suspended six senior officials at Road Transport and Safety Agency following ZRA findings which established that about 33,045 registered motor vehicles at the agency have no matching records of customs clearance.

In an interview, ZRA acting corporate communications manager Oliver Nzala said the authority could not rule out the fact that there could have been some bad eggs at the time.

He said ZRA and RTSA had since met to discuss issues concerning the matter.

“It was a lack of integration between the two systems, the systems between the two institutions. We could say that when we were in the manual period, poor record keeping. Then it is a fact and this is something that we have worked hard now to ensure that we keep on preaching, if I can call it the gospel of integrity, professionalism, because we cannot rule out the fact that there could have been one or two bad eggs at that time. So sometimes you could have lack of integrity, so clearing agents and officers can connive. So the two institutions have partnered, we had a meeting two weeks ago between ZRA and RTSA here, just here in the ZRA boardroom and we discussed about the way forward and what should be done. Technically, capacity building and ensuring that both institutions keep on promoting integrity,” he said.

“We want to ensure that all the vehicles that are registered with RSTA are also appearing on the ZRA system, so that all the vehicles are captured electronically. After this period where everyone comes through, they collect, they regularise or normalise their cars, we would have everyone captured on the ZRA system and the RTSA system and it is a clean record. So, we are not punishing anyone, we are not penalizing anyone, others have started coming with different issues like ‘I had sent the money, I had bought this, I had sent the money to the agent and the agent just brought me a white book. I wanted to follow up on other documents, [but] the agent blocked me’. So a lot of irregularities took place at that time.”

When asked how much ZRA had lost as a result, Nzala said he could not give the figures at the moment because there was need for the Authority to aggregate the value for duty purposes.

“At the moment, what I can say is that the bigger numbers of those vehicles is not actually on the ZRA system but registered with RTSA. So it is now that when they start coming, I will be able to give you, I will be able to say that now we are able to aggregate the value for duty purposes. You can check with me after a week or two weeks. We need to get the value for duty purposes from these vehicles, their value and then we aggregate the duty purposes. Some of these vehicles, these are vehicles that have exchanged hands, maybe it is a second hand. In our system they were not there, if they were in our system we would have quickly given you the value for duty purposes for all the 33,045 vehicles,” he said.

Nzala explained that the Authority undertook an audit of how many vehicles had been imported in the last 15 years and how many had been registered with RTSA in the past 15 years, and it was through that audit that they discovered that 33,045 vehicles had irregularities.

“What we do normally is that we have audits. Now these audits take place in all the operating divisions, it can be direct, indirect taxes and customs. Now even customs there are other audits that are carried out. So, if you check somewhere 2016, 2017 we offered a tax amnesty. The tax amnesty for 2016, 2017, there was no audit, we just went flat out to offer amnesty to come through in the same manner we have done. So this time around, we have done an audit and this audit is arising as a result of the fact that we are integrating our systems or rather we have integrated our systems between ZRA and RTSA,” he said.

“We are moving towards Smart ZAMBIA where we are moving towards an environment where things should be quickly done online. We need to have the numbers in order to make decisions to do this and that. In doing the data matching and this and that, we said let us do an audit to find out exactly, we know the number of vehicles that are registered, we did a comparison of how many vehicles are registered with RTSA in the last 15 years and how many vehicles were imported within these 15 years. So we made a comparison between ZRA and what is sitting on the RTSA system. It was through that audit that we discovered that between 1st January 2015 and 31st August 2021, 33,000 vehicles have irregularities.”

Nzala said the irregularities discovered varied.

“These irregularities are different, varying with all sorts of issues. Others, remember back then we had special delivery, you could have a situation where someone brings in a vehicle on special delivery. Special delivery, actually you don’t pay anything, you are saying ‘once I am in Lusaka and I organise myself, I will clear’. Then you find that after that, someone doesn’t because they have the papers and they disappear and they manage to register the vehicle with RTSA. So there are all sorts of cases, it is not a situation where all the vehicles have the similar case. Others are outrightly smuggled in and because we were in a manual environment of which now RTSA has perfectly gone digital, now it is difficult to register a vehicle. Our systems, Asycuda World and the RTSA system, they are now talking to each other. The moment you import a vehicle, your papers are lodged in, RSTA is also able to see on the system that you have actually paid all the customs and taxes,” said Nzala.

“So when you look at the period 2015 to 2021, it could have been a case of maybe one or two vehicles within the year 2015, then a bigger number in 2016 varying illegalities. So it is that time, we discovered that all these vehicles had irregularities because as of last year, in November, we started piloting the integration of the system between ZRA and RTSA. That is why if you check, the period ends up to October because November we started piloting. With this audit, If you come to ZRA to say ‘how many vehicles were imported in the last 20 years’, once everyone has corrected everything, we will be able to tell you this is the number of vehicles that were imported, final cleared and registered with RTSA. You go to RTSA, they will give the exact number because of that data matching.”