TRA 'most corrupt in EA'
By Damas Kanyabwoya
Tanzania is the least efficient and most corrupt in goods clearance in the region, a recent survey indicates.
About 73 per cent of clearing and forwarding agents interviewed in Dar es Salaam and at transit points in northern Tanzania said there was rampant corruption compared to 53 per cent in Kenya, 52 per cent in Burundi, 51 per cent in Uganda and 9 per cent in Rwanda.
But the survey carried out by the Steadman Group has raised eyebrows in some quarters, with the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) questioning the methodology employed in the study.
A senior TRA official, however, said although the study findings cannot be entirely dismissed as irrelevant, he was concerned that the methodology used to arrive at the conclusions in the report was not uniform.
As a result, he said, it presented unequal footing for comparisons between transit points in different countries.
The number of clearing and forwarding agents (CFAs) interviewed from different transit stations were inconsistent and not proportional to the volumes of business transactions in the respective stations.
From the total 223 CFAs interviewed in the six countries 40 were from Dar es Salaam with 200 transactions tracked, while for Mombassa port, 20 CFAs were interviewed with 100 transactions tracked.
"The sample size (CFAs interviewed) for Dar es Salaam was twice that of Mombassa, for instance, which has more transaction volumes than Dar es Salaam.
"But had the sample size been the same then the comparisons would have been more appropriate," Mr Walid Juma, deputy commissioner for customs and excise, told participants in a TRA stakeholders workshop in Dar es Salaam yesterday.
Officials at the Dar es Salaam transit point were also the most notorious in demanding bribes followed by Holili, Horohoro and Mutukula, according to the survey.
Sixty-five per cent of respondents said they were asked for bribes in Dar es Salaam as opposed to only 10 per cent in Mombasa.
Explaining the sample size disparity, Steadman Group said in the report that it was difficult to achieve target samples in some points. Due to the sensitivity of the topic, some samples refused to respond to certain questions.
The study also showed that in Tanzania too many documents were required to clear goods, with too many officials involved in the approval of the documents. Clearance procedures were the most complicated in Tanzania compared to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
Sixty-eight per cent of CFAs said too many documents were required in goods clearance.
Yet, 65 per cent said too many officials were involved in the approval of documents, while 73 per cent said procedures were complicated in Tanzania, making the country earn the lowest marks in all the countries surveyed with exception of the DRC.
Surprised by reports on the level of document requirements, TRA director general Harry Kitillya said the report findings posed a challenge to his institution and other players concerned in the clearance of goods to do something to improve the situation.
"But I do not understand why Tanzania should require more documents in the clearance of goods while the East African region is governed by the single customs union (EAC-CU).
"We would need to undertake further research to establish if the documents problem is solely the problem of TRA or if other government departments also contribute to it," he said.
The survey also showed that Dar es Salaam was the slowest transit point in the region with the average clearance duration being 11 days followed by Mombasa and Akanyaru on the Rwanda/Burundi border with five days. But again, while 200 shipments were involved to determine the delay in Dar es Salaam, only 100 shipments were used for Mombassa.
Mr Juma said, however, that customs accounted for only one day of the reported clearance time of 11 days in Dar es Salaam.
Participants at the workshop blamed clearance delay on congestion at the container terminal at Dar es Salaam port and the customs agent, Tiscan.
"After completing all customs clearance procedures, it takes more than seven days to get goods out of the port after arrival.
Tiscan is also very cumbersome. This is killing our businesses," said Mr Mligo Godfrey, the secretary general of the Tanzania Freight Forwarders of Association.
Sumaria Group managing director Jayesh Shah said something should be done to simplify customs procedures as the delays increased the cost of doing business.