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Beitbridge Delays: ZIMRA Losing Millions Because Of Bureaucracy In Procurement Procedures

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You might be aware that there are long queues over at the Beitbridge border post because ZIMRA’s Asycuda system is down. We wrote about how ZIMRA employees are having to manually record import and export documents which is slow as you can imagine.

All borders are affected but Beitbridge being the busiest border in Southern Africa will feel it the most.

The Asycuda (Automated System for Customs Data) has been down since the 13th of December which has led to insanely long queues. It has been taking up to a week to clear cargo and ZIMRA has taken a few measures to try to help manage the delays as Asycuda remains down.

We understand that systems sometimes fail and so we kind of expect that whenever one relies any system they would at least have one backup in case there is system failure. Or at least to continuously assess the suitability of your systems taking into consideration projected usage and age of equipment.

So are we saying that there aren’t any technically gifted people employed by ZIMRA who could have foreseen the challenges that ZIMRA is facing with Asycuda? No. That’s what frustrates me.

The Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Terrence Mukupe spoke to the Herald and said,

I was talking to the IT people and we found out that they knew in August that the servers that they had were acquired in 2011 and basically they were going to shut down.

That right there is infuriating. It means the ZIMRA employees are competent but are being thwarted by red tape. Yes, the ‘IT people’ apparently made it known that the servers needed replacing months ago but nothing was done. Now we are not ZIMRA employees but I think almost everyone would conclude that revenue collected at the borders is quite important to ZIMRA.

If that’s the case then one would assume that if ‘IT people’ communicated the above way back in August then there must have been a huge cost barrier to replacing the ageing equipment. One would be wrong. Said Deputy Minister Mukupe,

You find that the servers cost $130 000; that is all they cost but because of the processes that you have, it will take you three, four, five months to go to the SPB and by the time you deal with the processes, you have got a disaster.

It may not be so for us as individuals but $130,000 is peanuts for ZIMRA. That’s especially so when it is to spend to reequip an important division of theirs. We are talking about a ZIMRA which collected over $352m in November alone.

The SPB he mentioned there is the State Procurement Board. They need to be shamed right now. I do not know what kind of deliberations or research or budget allocations they have to juggle but taking five months to process procurement requests is just ridiculous.

If it is a case of the SPB employees being overloaded with work then that will have to be fixed. This is not to say 5 months is acceptable by any stretch. Thing is, even if it’s a case of too much work, surely some issues take precedence over others regardless of when the procurement requests were made.

The problem we have is that some government employee out there just sits on documents unless there is a fire burning. Now that the fire is burning at the borders the request will be rushed through. We need to fix this as Zimbabweans. It’s not just some government employees, it can be said that as Zimbabweans we don’t really believe in maintenance but fixing what is broken.

The server replacement at ZIMRA was not prioritised because on the surface they still functioned as normal. You have every right to be infuriated by this even though we both know you personally wait until your car breaks down on the highway before you even consider changing oil filters.

For ZIMRA, the system outage could not have come at a worse time, the festive season. The busiest time of the year at the borders came and the outdated servers gave up the ghost.

It has been reported that some importers have redirected their cargo through Botswana to avoid the Beitbridge delays. So the cargo going from South Africa to the north of Zimbabwe is bypassing Zimbabwe and the country is losing out on millions of revenue. All because someone sat on requisition slips in some government office out there.

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9 thoughts on “Beitbridge Delays: ZIMRA Losing Millions Because Of Bureaucracy In Procurement Procedures

  1. Very revealing. Is this part of the African psyche – the so-called ‘broken windows theory’. We believe everything is fine and do not maintain and replace stuff until something eventually breaks down and becomes dysfunctional. I’m waiting for a package couriered from abroad which arrived more than a week ago and is caught up at ZIMRA, and courier companies are simply shrugging their shoulders as it is beyond their control. The timing could’t have been worse, Christmas period.

  2. Let’s be serious guys. Firstly, why was there no backup server? If the servers supported the core of their operations, there should be some redundancy and fall back measures.

    Secondly, if you are already aware of the delays in the SPB processing requests, why not apply early? Surely, by now they were aware of the lag times associated with SPB approvals.

    Thirdly, one also wonders what kind of servers they bought, to begin with, that are already failing after just 6 years of operation. This is quite suspicious, especially if the cost of said servers is projected to be $130,000 USD. Unless they bought one of these

    Finally, Zimra is not losing millions or anything at all. They do not produce or sell anything, they just collect. So, whether they collect the duty from imports waiting at the border today, next week or even next month, the amount of money they collect remains the same. Unlike a retail store customer, travellers/importers at the ports of entry have nowhere else to go.

    1. Our country is in this drain because the government has been listening to self-appointed radical maverick economists like you. ZIMRA is losing money. The timing of cash flows is so important that even a profitable business will fail if it does not receive payments in time. The government has obligations that will fall due whether it has collected revenue or not obviously those obligations will be better met if the government collects revenue in a timely manner not doing so will result in an economic catastrophe. ZIMRA should do better and not be run like a backyard tuckshop as you seem to be suggesting and condoning. Such lax attitudes have been our millstone eversince we listened to Chenjerai Hunzvi and his populist nonsense. The economy is sacrosanct and everyone must toil for its well being without compromise otherwise we are going to wallow in the mire as we have done for the past two decades. Matters affecting it must be attended to with urgency and proper haste.

    2. yes you can mickey mouse it but the main servers need to be proven and stable with a large lifespan. actually some oracle servers ive seen with my one eyes cost 300000+ and a basic one costs 10000+ depending on the workload you require

    1. I really wonder, out of all the technicians in Zimbabwe we can’t find a single tech who can fix a server?

  3. Am Reggies Sibanda from Vehicle Valuers Zimbabwe. It is quite saddening and disturbing to note that the maintanance or technical department at ZIMRA slept on duty. Truly speaking a busy entity like ZIMRA would have a system breakdown as a result of aged equipment which was supposed to be monitored periodical as to constantly ascertain its performance and timeous service. It is clear that this system was neglected hence its sudden collapse. We need right people in right places at ZIMRA. This is a new dispensation and our new president is eager to see transformations in all government departments, let us compliment his effort.

  4. Funny how we talk about it as if the money lost belongs to ZIMRA, where it does not. In a country where unemployment dances above 90%, you would think those in charge of public resources would be taking extreme measures to ensure maximum output and minimal shrinkage. The truth is, if those in charge of many of the parastatals were in the private sector – they would have been fired or prosecuted long ago. This article addresses only the losses suffered by ZIMRA, which is only a fraction of the total losses. Vehicles which generate, revenue for businesses, income for employees and tax revenues for Zimbabwe are now held in parking spaces instead of being on the road where they can generate desperately needed revenue.
    We have long accepted the many inadequacies of government departments as normal, but the current economic situation makes it impossible to continue to ignore.
    ZIMRA has made many demands on the private sector, with severe penalties for failure in compliance yet they shamelessly ride a double standard. In an ideal world, I might advocate a class action for loss of revenues by all stakeholders. Being that it is not… and given that the available means to solve the problem are those that created it. ZIMRA might fix the current crisis with no less than an ARMY OF ADMINISTRATORS at all the border crossings until the system is back up. The cost would be negligible compared to current losses.

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