FINN'S FACTS: Why TRA needs a clean up similar to that of BoT FINNIGAN WA SIMBEYE THIS DAY DAR ES SALAAM A CLOSE friend of mine last week had to part with a cool 70,000/- to facilitate speedy payment of import duty for clearance of a car he had imported from Japan. Earlier, tax collectors at the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) had hiked the import duty for the car by over 200 per cent, and still encountered some difficulties in paying the tax, which compelled him to pay the bribe. This kind of behaviour by some dishonest TRA staff encourages tax evasion and corrupt practices which have played a major role in making Dar es Salaam port inefficient. This also tarnishes the good image of the authority, but more importantly denies the government revenue. As more and more high profile cases of tax evasion are unveiled, the latest being the Aggreko 10bn/- controversy, it�s becoming increasingly evident that TRA needs overhauling. This kind of overhauling should resemble or even be more intense than the one which swept Bank of Tanzania (BoT). The cleansing of TRA should not target any particular hierarchy but involve the rank and file of the authority which has a good number of corrupt, incompetent employees who got their jobs not because of technical know how, but rather technical know who. Some corrupt TRA tax collectors and assessors have amassed wealth which is several times over their gross annual salaries and no state agency has held them responsible because past administrations treaded a laissez faires culture. As President Jakaya Kikwete's government seeks to put an end to use of public office to strike fortunes illegally, it's important that TRA be subjected to a thorough combing to rid it of individuals with questionable character. It's abnormal that people holding public office at different levels collude with multinational companies to evade taxes while burdening poor Tanzanians who are importing second hand cars for family use with punitive taxes. TRA has all the hallmarks of wrongdoers who have failed to repent hence the latest scandals. Its tax assessors and collectors have been very good at snarling at poorly earning struggling Tanzanians who they have the luxury of demanding bribes even for someone seeking to clear an unjustified import duty on a family car. This country cannot continue to rely on foreign taxpayers' money to build roads, railways, schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructure while our own revenue collectors have failed to collect government revenue from multinational corporations which are evading billions of shillings like Aggreko. The potential to collect over 500bn/- a month is still there and that's why when Finance and Economy Minister Mustafa Mkulo summoned senior TRA officials last September and demanded an explanation to poor revenue collection for months of July and August, a record 427bn/- was collected by end of September. Most of the people complaining against the record revenue collection mark by TRA, were none other than big corporations in the oil importation sector which have for years colluded with some employees of the authority to evade or pay less taxes. It's high time that the government should take a firm stand and clean up the mess at TRA as it is doing at BoT, instead of keeping the same faces at same or elevated positions and expect miracles in bringing sanity, integrity and professionalism.