MASSIVE corruption – which has dragged on for years – is rocking the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra)’s multi-million-dollar whistle-blower fund which the tax collector’s senior officials are looting in cahoots with a corrupt network of informants acting on insider information.
In April, The NewsHawks reported Zimra was caught in a corruption storm in which its senior officers were accused of conniving with tax evaders in exchange for payment and partaking in attendant financial rewards.
This endangers the security of whistle-blowers and damages the image of the tax collector. The most recent case involved three whistle-blowers – Norman Nyabadza, Martin Macharaga and Evans Kujinga – who had reported notorious Harare land baron Felix Munyaradzi to Zimra for tax evasion involving US$12 million.
Zimra in March wrote to Munyaradzi demand-ing payment or else they would garnish his business accounts. Munyaradzi was in March given seven days to pay or face the consequences. Under the whistle-blower facility, Zimra is supposed to reward legitimate informants on cases relating to tax evasion under Section 34B of the Revenue Authority Act (Chapter 23:11) as read with Statutory Instrument 150 of 2020.Statutory Instrument 150 of 2020, gazetted on 26 June 2020, regulates payment of rewards to informants upon whistleblow-ing and recovery of revenue.
The reward is 10% of the amount recovered on the basis of information supplied even corrupt Zimra officials always manipulate that. Zimra also undertakes to protect the identity of the informants at all times as provided for in the secrecy provisions of the Revenue Authority Act, but it has failed and endangered whistle-blowers.
Following The NewsHawks’ recent report, Zimra sources have provided further details, including an audit report dating five years which shows a frenzy of looting of public funds under the whistle-blower facility. The audit covered the period 2009-2016.
However, the plunder has continued unabated. Millions in taxpayers’ funds have been stolen through racket. The network works like this: senior Zimra officials get information from whistle-blowers and then help them to consolidate and process their cases fast using inside information for a huge cut.
Alternatively, and more corruptly, senior Zimra officials use inside information on individuals and companies’ tax returns and tax evasion to empower their cronies to come and report cases in return for huge payments, which they then share.
This becomes lucrative fake whistle-blowing. The money-spinning fraudulent scheme has been so lucrative that one whistle-blower infiltrated the Zimra system, guaranteeing himself US$15 million. But the use of insider information led to a prejudice to Zimra of US$10 million on one occasion. One prolific whistle-blower – Kujinga – who was an informant to over 80 cases obtained much of the information from inside Zimra to support his cases.
At the time of audit, he had been paid over US$1 million and stood to be paid over US$15 million when all collections due had been paid up. This money was at various stages of processing: cash due for payment; cash in debt which was being collected; money from cases under audit, matters not yet audited and transactions submitted.
The interactions between the audit team and Zimra officials were revealing. “Debt Management: This stage was very vital as Zimra officers would view client ac-counts and provide information about the tax status of each client to Kujinga such as which tax heads the client was not complying on.
“The same debt management officers would also quicken the payments collection for clients reported by Kujinga through constant follow up. The same officers would also provide information on which client had paid and how much. This information was crucial for follow-ing up with the commissioner. This was also evidenced by the specific information Kujinga would use when doing the follow-ups form instance knowing when Liquid Telecoms had paid US$150 000.00 to Zimra,” the audit report says.
“Internal audit interviewed the officers involved as follows: Munashe Bozhiwa – he said he knew Kujinga since 2014 as a tax consultant who frequently visited Zimra offices and also agreed that he had been receiv-ing some monies from him both as physical cash and through Ecocash over a long period of time.
“Evelyn Musorah – she worked in debt management section. She said she had known Kujinga since 2007, and was a family friend. She joined Zimra in 2014 and met Kujinga at Kurima House where he said he was doing some tax consultancy work. Since then they have been discussing various tax is-sues. They exchanged various amounts of money over the period through Ecocash, cash and bank transfers.”
Brian Gombera – Since 2012 he was deployed at the debt management section. His duties included monitoring cli-ent accounts and advising them to update their records accordingly. He knew Evans Kujinga since 2004. He met him later at Kurima House in his capacity as a tax consultant and would assist him but could not remember the names of the clients he represented. As a friend they would borrow and lend various amounts of money to each other.
“Simbarashe Katiyo – He got to know Kujinga since 2007. After joining Zimra in 2011 Multi million-dollar whistleblowing corruption scandal rocks Zimra fundhe met Evans Kujinga. Sometime in 2014 and assisted him as a tax consultant who would ask almost everything about Zimra, Customs and Taxation such as how to apply for a tax clearance, how to propose a payment plan, garnish orders, tax amnesty, and upliftment among other things. He did not verify whether Kujinga was a registered tax consultant or not and could not remember the specific clients Kujinga represented but was very inquisitive about how things were done in the Debt Management section. He also received monies from him through Ecocash and cash.”