Your motor vehicle licence may be a fake one! Makwaia wa Kuhenga, 18th February 2010 @ 21:00, T Mr Harry Kitillya, Commissioner-General, Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) DAR ES SALAAM Dear Commissioner-General, THE heading of this note to you may be inappropriate because your official car is not required to be affixed with a motor vehicle licence on its windscreen because I understand state-owned vehicles are not obliged to secure road licences for its users. It is those members of the general public, like me, running private vehicles that the law requires them to secure motor vehicle licences that translates for road license and, of course, plus a car insurance cover. So, if I have used the above heading is to attract the attention of the general public of a real problem that may be facing them without their being oblivious of it as they drive around their vehicles as I, myself, have been a victim recently. You may remember, Mr Commissioner-General, what I told you when I ran into you coincidentally the other day that I will have something to tell you - that is of public concern. So here we are: The other day, on February 1 of this month, to be precise, my driver alerted me that the motor vehicle licence for the intervening past year was up and it was time I had a new cover for this year. Because I knew I would be away out of the country, I told my driver to handle the matter immediately and ensure the vehicle licence was in place. When I was gone and made a follow up via SMS text message with my driver, I was shocked to learn that he had been informed by the TRA office issuing motor vehicle licences along Samora Avenue in Dar es Salaam that the motor vehicle licence that was transfixed on my cars windscreen for the whole of last year has been decreed as fake by some TRA clerk. So the money intended to secure the licence for this year has been re-routed to pay up for last year with extra dues imposed as penalty! Eh! Bwana Kitillya! But I was seething with fury. First, I did not understand why anyone on earth could describe a licence that has survived me for the whole year round as fake with neither myself nor any traffic policeman questioning it on the road as I drove around! And for another thing, for all I can recall, I had gone to the TRA office myself last year. Someone who gave me the impression of an official of the same TRA office, looking serious and responsible who even claimed to recognize me told me: Mzee, just give me the money, you do not have to waste your time here - the queues are too long. Send you driver in a couple of hours time And indeed the vehicle licence cover was there, with all the information, including the date the cover was bound to expire. The TRA logo was there at the top of the cover, with the words Tanzania Revenue Authority underlined. It looked like all other vehicle licence covers I have known; it never crossed my mind that it was fictitious. Now I was being informed by my driver while away that the cover has been decreed as fake by your people, Mr Commissioner-General! The same people, as far as I was concerned had issued me the same thing last year! And now my driver was telling me the car had no road licence for this year because the previous one has been forfeited and scrawled with the words fake! So upon my return, I was determined to go to the bottom of the matter myself. I took the stairs on the TRA office, looking for the officer in charge. Right at the ground floor of the office were the words: jihadhari na vishoka (beware of cheats). I did not know what the hell vishoka meant. I tried to figure out. I was able to decode the words but it did not just click into my mind why vishoka (cheats) should be there in the first place if one was talking of a state run office and secondly how vishoka can operate independently without the conspiracy of actual TRA personnel. Soon, I was facing one young officer called Elias. But to reach his desk was not easy given the queue of people all waiting to see him. I managed somehow. Still livid, I explained to him the whole story of how I have reached his desk. He listened to me patiently. Soon he reached for a file somewhere in his filing cabinet. Perusing the content, he showed me forged motor vehicle licences and car registration documents. I was both perplexed and shocked The car registration documents, which he said were forged - looked exactly like original ones - not to speak of motor vehicle licences. Eh! Mr Commissioner-General It would appear that these people are sophisticated and know what they are doing the young officer, Elias said, while showing the forged documents to me. Looking at these forged papers, I immediately concluded that these people were capable of even forging passports! When he checked on my car licence he found out that the motor vehicle licence that has been affixed on my cars windscreen for the whole of last year was not recorded into the computer data which means I had been sold a fake one! I am afraid you will still have to pay for your vehicle licence this year. This is the law. I have no other option, said Elias and added: And since you are from the media, you may wish to support TRA to offer public education on what is going on I obliged Elias and paid because I need the car to run around. I accepted the fact that nimeingizwa mjini nimebamizwa I have been taken for a ride and have been bashed. My information, Mr Commissioner-General, is that I am not the only one who has been bashed by these cheats with car licence vehicles and car registration cards. I am reliably informed that one whole Cabinet minister and a senior law enforcing officer had undergone exactly what I have been through! Now some pieces of advice, Commissioner-General. Clearly, this is a big racket involving vehicle licences and other related documents. But how many private vehicles including buses are plying this town today with so called fake road licences with their owners un-oblivious? And at what cost to government revenue? Most importantly, is this question: What could be one single biggest factor the cheats are taking advantage of? I think the response to this question may not be complex. Clearly, Mr Commissioner-General, one does not handle car owners of a teeming city like this one with a population of three million people by having only one TRA office to issue motor vehicle licences, does he? Surely, Mr Commissioner-General, you need more car licensing outlets, three at the barest minimum to handle the three districts of Dar es Salaam: Ilala, Temeke and Kinondoni. You may have competent officers like the young man Elias along Samora Avenue in Dar es Salaam but they are no match to an increasingly sophisticated syndicate, are they? So, this is the information of public concern I said I would share with you the other day. Being a taxman, I am sure you have few friends just like dentist doctors! And this is because one does not smile when he is told by his dentist that he will be his guest at his tooth extraction chair! This is certainly the case with your job because people have to pay taxes. But your best friends may be those who may volunteer some better routes for people to meet their tax obligations and not at the hands of vishoka [cheats]! Bye-bye for now, Mkuu, and cheers! Yours Faithfully.