Vehicle rebate haunts civil servants

Statutory Instrument (SI) 154 of 2001 (Customs and Excise General Regulations) as read with SI 124 of 2022, promulgated in July 2022 provides for a rebate of duty on motor vehicles imported or taken out of bond by civil servants and members of independent commissions

CIVIL servants are under probe for allegedly abusing the vehicle rebate system as it emerged that some government employees were importing cars duty free on behalf of other people for a fee.

Statutory Instrument (SI) 154 of 2001 (Customs and Excise General Regulations) as read with SI 124 of 2022, promulgated in July 2022 provides for a rebate of duty on motor vehicles imported or taken out of bond by civil servants and members of independent commissions.

A government employee must possess a valid driver’s licence and must have served for not less than 10 years. Only one vehicle can be imported every five years and its value depends on the employee’s grade.

NewsDay heard this week that the rebate system is being abused, necessitating the probe by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra).

According to Zacc deputy chairperson Kuziwa Murapa, by October last year, 19 000 civil servants were being investigated for corruption involving the abuseof the import duty on vehicles.

The civil servants are importing vehicles for other people and charging a fee of between US$700 and US$1 500 depending on the type of vehicle.

The vehicle, however, will be registered in the name of the civil servant involved while being driven by the other person.

Government extended the waiver for civil servants to import vehicles duty free. There are fears, however, that imported cars are ending up at car dealers.

They are being paid as much as US$1 000 for each vehicle depending on the make and price.

NewsDay also heard that some car dealers in Harare and other areas are reportedly importing vehicles in the names of civil servants duty-free and the civil servants, if they do not want a duty-free car themselves, can be paid for allowing their name to be used in evading customs duty.

The fraud has prejudiced the State of revenue as people who should pay duty are now importing cars duty free.

A civil servant who requested anonymity, told NewsDay that Zimra and  Zacc are unjustly targeting civil servants accusing them of corruption, adding that there was need for a thorough investigation.

“Zimra in conjunction with Zacc are arresting civil servants over rebates. They are accusing them of being fraudulent.  They check the reference number that would be on the rebate [form], and they say it is fake,” said the victim.

“My issue is how we verify that this reference number is fake or authentic. We only receive letters. The rebate system is porous and Zacc do not even understand the process to an extent that it thinks it has apprehended fraudsters yet it’s not even that. We are unjustly being targeted. There is a need for thorough investigation. Many innocent people have been arrested.”

Another civil servant raised concern over the alarming number of civil servants being arrested in connection with rebate-related issues.

“We are being arrested and paraded before courts. Many of us can barely afford rent and food, let alone cars that would warrant a rebate claim. We are earning meagre salaries, we are struggling. They are just harassing us. There is a need for justice on this,” the government employee said.

Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions chairperson, David Dzatsunga, acknowledged the existence of cases where civil servants are being accused of allegedly abusing the rebate scheme.

“We have heard cases of that nature where people are alleged to have fraudulently abused the scheme. They import cars for other people other than themselves and then they have these funny arrangements. When it comes to issues that are illegal, there is not much that we can do. I am sure the authorities would be doing the investigations,” Dzatsunga said.

 “We are aware and we hope that not too many people will be caught on the wrong side of the law.” 

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou, however, said the lengthy rebate application process encouraged corruption.

 “One of the issues is that when you apply for the rebate and you want to buy a car, the processing time and the time when you want to buy a car are different. The process is frustrating; the process goes through the district, province and head office.  Mind you the rebates are not mainly for teachers but those in high ranks in government,” Zhou said.

Repeated efforts to get a comment from Zacc spokesperson Thandiwe Mlobane were fruitless as her phone was not reachable.

Efforts to get a comment from Zimra head of corporate communications Francis Chimanda were fruitless as his phone rang unanswered.

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