Editor's Comment

Smuggling scams tip of an iceberg

ZAMBIA Revenue Authority corporate communications manager Topsy Sikalinda (left) inspecting smuggled goods in Lusaka. PICTURE: MULENGA CHIMUMBWA

THE Zambian government, like other governments across the globe, shoulders the responsibility to deliver basic services and development to its citizenry.
For instance, it is the obligation of Government to ensure availability of schools, health facilities, road infrastructure and other social amenities.
It is also the responsibility of Government to ensure economic growth and development in general by investing in various sectors.
In delivering on its mandate, Government largely depends on taxes to raise money to support service delivery and development.
And Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) is the statutory body charged with the responsibility of collecting revenue on behalf of Government under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance.
While it is commendable that ZRA is doing its best to try and make systems and processes user-friendly for easy compliance, some people have continued to be deviant.
Some unscrupulous cross-border traders, for instance, are evading customs duty by smuggling goods into the country thereby depriving Government of the much-needed resources for service delivery.
Recently, ZRA elite anti-smuggling squads, working together with customs officers from Chirundu border post, intercepted three trucks loaded with alcohol worth over K700,000 in taxes.
According to ZRA corporate communications manager Topsy Sikalinda, one of the trucks was intercepted in Southern Province in the bush off the Bottom Road where it was found offloading into two Canter trucks and small buses.
The other two trucks were intercepted in Chirundu with forged documents purporting to be carrying various furniture fittings.
In another related incident, ZRA intercepted 568 cases of smuggled Kiwi shoe polish worth over K300,000 in Nakonde.
Just for the two instances above, we are talking about K1,000,000 loss of revenue on the part of Government.
This is definitely only a tip of an iceberg. It is indisputable that there are many more cases of smuggling that are going unnoticed.
Not long ago, ZRA impounded 60 trucks which were laden with smuggled fuel.
It is undebatable that Government is losing huge sums of money through smuggling.
One of the contributing factors is the porosity of some borders with neighbouring countries, where there is vast open land which allows smugglers to cross with ease.
It is, however, commendable that ZRA has exhibited vigilance and has been able to intercept smuggled goods at the borders and beyond.
It is also reassuring to note that the authority has decentralised all the elite anti-smuggling teams in major routes countrywide as a permanent feature and that officers are already on the ground in their operational areas.
With such interventions in place, it is hoped that smuggling will now be brought to the lowest possible levels and eventually eliminated.
As we go into the festive season, ZRA needs to be even more vigilant because during such periods, smugglers also want to take advantage of the booming business by smuggling in more goods illegally.
As a country that is in a hurry to improve service delivery and develop, we cannot tolerate smuggling because it deprives Government of the much-needed revenue.
Without adequate resources, Government is, for instance, unable to stock hospitals with drugs and other medical necessities thereby putting many lives at risk.
Smuggling is illegal as it is contrary to the Customs and Excise Act of the Laws of Zambia.
Given the devastating effects of smuggling on the economy and national development, we could not agree more with the authority, which has resolved to ensure smugglers are prosecuted instead of being charged penalties.
All Zambians must be made to understand that paying taxes is a necessary obligation, without which effective service delivery and development cannot be attained.
Besides complying with tax obligations, citizens are also supposed to act as the eyes of the authority by reporting anyone engaging in smuggling or evading tax.
Let’s all join hands to fight smuggling for a better Zambia.

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