TRA cracks down on fake import papers By JOSEPH MWANYANGE THE EAST AFRICAN The Tanzania Revenue Authority has impounded scores of trucks after it discovered that a syndicate of fraudsters was forging documents and affixing plate numbers of tractors and motorcycles to trucks ferrying goods and containers from the port. In the crackdown, many transporters were caught unawares as the Authority checked through its computerised vehicle number plate system only to discover that some trucks were not even registered by the TRA. The Deputy Commissioner for Customs and Excise, Generose Bateyunga, told The East African that the TRA had discovered that some transporters of transit goods to neighbouring countries and local transporters were engaging in dirty tricks. Ms Bateyunga said: We have now installed computers at the port, which are connected to the Central Motor Vehicle Registry in order to verify data on the vehicles carrying goods. Previously, our officers only checked for the certificate (C65), which unfortunately was also being forged. Asked how big the problem was, Ms Bateyunga replied: It was beginning to become big and even our efforts to nab the culprits had transporters complaining that we were causing delays. There would be no delays if all the data provided by the transporters were valid. She said the measures put in place and others to be introduced soon should greatly reduce the problem. She said that, between July last year and June this year, the TRA encountered seven cases of presenting false pay-in slips acknowledging payment of transit fees; six cases of fake licences for conveying goods under Customs Control Form No.C65; and 11 cases of using different Ante numbers on Motor Vehicles carrying transit as well as local home-use goods. She said the scams involve forging or faking permit number C65 meant for vehicles ferrying goods or containers from the port. Some vehicles ferrying goods or containers from the port have been found to have been affixed with plate numbers meant for motorcycles or tractors, with the intention of hiding the true identity of the truck and thus enabling the culprits to dump transit goods within the Tanzanian market, she said, adding, This denies the government revenue in the form of taxes. Ms Bateyunga said it was very difficult to trace such goods because by the time information reached the Authoritys staff that a truck meant to reach a checkpoint at a designated time had not done so, the culprits would already have diverted from the route, and tracing them becomes near impossible because of the forged certificates and wrong Ante numbers. She said that, since transporters deposit a bond with the TRA, the Authority has been able to recover duties and other taxes from the transporters guarantors, which are banks or insurance firms once transporters fail to pay penalties. Our checkpoints along the transit goods routes are to be installed with the latest technology to monitor trucks as they move from one checkpoint to another, said Ms Bateyunga. She further revealed that the Authority had discovered that some local transporters were using fake number plates with the intention of stealing containers from the port. These acts are detrimental to the economy of the country as well as its security and will in the long run tarnish the image of the port of Dar es Salaam, said Ms Bateyunga. Besides tampering with vehicle plates, the culprits were also said to be using fake Customs documents to clear the goods or containers from the port. The TRA is now, as a control measure, verifying both the certificates and the Ante numbers. Transporters will also be required to install electric seals on trucks carrying transit goods. In this regard, Ms Bateyunga said that all transporters have been advised to travel with all valid motor vehicle documents and to be prepared to hand them over to TRA officers when the need for verification arises. She added that transporters caught using fake number plates or providing wrong motor vehicle registration information or forged certificates would be dealt with in accordance with the East African Community Customs and Excise Act, 2004, which includes impounding or forfeiture of the said vehicle. Meanwhile, the Tanzania Ports Authority and Tanzania International Container Terminal Services together with other stakeholders have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at lessening congestion at the port. The MoU, signed on June 17 by 15 major stakeholders in port operations, has come at a critical time when the port has endured some heavy criticism due to rising congestion and dwell time.