A NEW wave of fraud involving motor vehicle registration is believed to be denying the government billions of shillings in taxes, it has been revealed.
The scam involves fake motor vehicle licences, insurance certificates, and other car registration papers.
A survey by THISDAY has uncovered that many car owners in Dar es Salaam and elsewhere across the country are carrying forged insurance and motor vehicle licence documents.
The problem has now become so common that officials from the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) are understood to have encountered dozens of cases of the fraudulent documents.
The forged motor vehicle licences are apparently so identical to the genuine documents that it is extremely difficult for traffic policemen and car owners to identify the forgeries.
TRA officials have confirmed receipt of frequent complaints from car owners who say they have been duped by their drivers or agents in the scam.
Many car owners unknowingly drive around with the forged documents, only to later be informed by the TRA that their vehicles have been operating without bona fide permits and licences.
One of the forged motor vehicle licence documents (number 1869341) seen by THISDAY was purportedly issued on December 23, 2008, after the owner of the car had paid annual fees of 150,000/- plus an additional 67,500/- as payment delay fine and other miscellaneous expenses.
The fake licence was used on the saloon car until it expired in December 2009, without detection by the car owner, traffic police, TRA officials or agents.
"Just by chance, I decided to go in person to the TRA to renew my motor vehicle licence for 2009. That's when I was told by TRA staff that the 2008 licence was fake, hence I had to pay back taxes for a bona fide 2008 licence plus a new licence for 2009," said one Dar es Salaam car owner who became a victim of the fraud.
TRA officials admitted that they had files containing dozens of fake licence certificates, whereby owners of the cars were told to pay hundreds of thousands of shillings in back taxes plus fines.
Questions sent by THISDAY to TRA headquarters in Dar es Salaam three weeks ago on the extent of the fraud are yet to be answered. The Director of Criminal Investigation (DCI), Commissioner of Police Robert Manumba, was not immediately available to comment on whether or not the police were aware.
Sources say motor vehicle licence documents stolen from TRA without the authority's knowledge are being used in the fraud.
"There are also lots of fake insurance stickers and cover notes being sold on the streets," said Evarist Kavishe, a Dar es Salaam-based motorist.
In the 2007/08 budget, the government hiked various motor vehicle fees and licences, prompting fraudsters to come up with the idea for the scam.
According to official government figures, motorcycles and rickshaws with an engine capacity not in excess of 500cc are required to pay an annual motor vehicle licence of 50,000/-.
Other fees are for vehicles between 501cc to 1,500cc (80,000/-), 1,501cc to 2,500cc (150,000/-), while cars with bigger engine capacities pay annual fees of between 175,000/- and 330,000/-.