Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) is embarking on an exercise to investigate the financial affairs of their employees to determine the source of their income. ZIMRA which early this year sent lifestyle audit questionnaires to high ranking business executives has now turned to focus on its own in an effort to curb corruption which is now rampant at the tax collector’s offices. According to remarks by ZIMRA chairperson Mrs Willia Bonyongwe in her Q3 performance report, ‘…during the next (4th) quarter, lifestyle audits will be focused on ZIMRA officers. Corruption by ZIMRA officers is costing Government a lot of money and it is expected that regular staff audits and other measures to combat corruption will see this (individual tax) revenue head and others improving…’
To many this looks like a case of the pot calling the kettle black, given the recent scandals at the revenue authority which led to the suspension of Mr Gersham Pasi as the Commissioner General. According to a KPMG Typical fraudster report; ‘…70% of fraud cases involve collusion…’ and senior management is responsible for signing-off any decision that junior officers make; therefore corruption at ZIMRA cuts across all levels of management for it to exist in the first place. A top-down approach is required to root out corruption and the suspension of Mr Pasi and other corrupt elements signals the change of winds at ZIMRA. Mr Pasi was allegedly involved in customs fraud through altering import papers to under-declare motor vehicles which he and others involved in the fraud either used for personal use or resell. The fraud was discovered when a Toyota LandCruiser VX which had been imported into the country through this channel was involved in an accident and the registration book of the car did not match the vehicle in question. Apparently the vehicle was imported as a Toyota Raum which falls into a much lower customs duty bracket than a $100,000 state of the art Cruiser he was driving. This opened a can of worms, taking five more casualties in the process and led to an audit done by HLB Chartered Accountants to which the findings are yet to be published.
While the ZIMRA Chairperson highlighted that several corrupt officials had been fired which is a positive and welcome move to stamp out corruption, there are sentiments that it was just a case of being unfortunate and caught red handed whilst many other are getting away with it. It is strikingly similar to the Robin Hood story which engulfed the Zimbabwean media last week whereby Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Prof Jonathan Moyo likened himself to the English folklore character by robbing the nation and giving bicycles to people in his constituency Tsholotsho and defended himself saying that there is nothing wrong as others are doing it anyways. Whilst it is hard to link the lifestyle of an individual directly to corruption, efforts to step up this drive will most likely deter to be fraudsters from engaging in such acts.