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Strike by clearing agents unsettle EAZ

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By JOHN SAKALA
The Economics Association of Zambia (EAZ) is concerned with the recent strike action taken by a selected number of clearing agents.

The strike follows the introduction of Customs Agent Management Module (CAMM) by the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA).

EAZ President Lubinda Haabazoka said the strike is an unfortunate action that comes at a time when Zambia and other countries across the globe seek to address revenue collection hurdles amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Haabazoka said after studying the matter, the Association had learnt that the CAMM is a module on the Customs Electronic Licensing System that has interface with ASYCUDAWorld, which allows importers and exporters to appoint up to five (5) clearing companies depending on their business needs, to act as their representatives on ASYCUDAWorld.

“This is in line with the Customs and Excise Act Cap 322, Section 29 (1) that gives rights to any master, pilot, or operator (importers and exporters included) to appoint an agent to perform any act including answering of questions under the Act, and any such act performed by the agent shall in all respects and for all purposes be deemed to be the act of the master, pilot or operator.

“It is important to note that tax administration in Zambia is increasingly becoming effective as ZRA automates its tax administration systems therefore reducing human contact which in-turn mitigates the risk of corruption. It is vital to note that this is not the first time certain market players are resisting the automation of the Zambian tax system,” he said.

He said CAMM module aims to automate and formalize the clearing agent appointment process.

Mr Haabazoka said some of the envisioned benefits are; that the importers and exporters will be able to choose their preferred agents and consequently safeguard their TPIN from abuse.

“Clearing agents will be saved from unscrupulous importers and exporters who like abandoning professional agents’ mid-way; clearing agents will enhance their professionalism as they can select who to work with;

“The feature will reduce incidences of unscrupulous agents abusing TPINs, as only appointed agents will be able to use any importer or exporter’s TPIN, the importer or exporter will be able to select as many agents as they used to in the manual process.   Currently, this number is set at five clearing agents and the importers will no longer be required to write formal authorization letters to ZRA authorizing clearing firms to handle their consignments,” he said.

He said other benefits are that the feature will increase integrity levels among importers and exporters and the feature also seeks to reduce the amount of debt stock on account of duplicated entries.

Mr Haabazoka said EAZ is saddened to learn that a few individuals have decided to hold hostage the entire country by causing business disruption, which has affected operational resilience of the tax collection process at a time when government needs to collect revenue to fund salaries and other socio-economic sectors amid the Covid 19 pandemic. Such actions are tantamount to economic sabotage and should be condemned.

“The Association advises further that there are amicable ways in which those who feel aggrieved can address their concerns without disrupting economic activities.  Economic diplomacy is the way to go.

“ZRA is therefore, advised to proceed with the implementation of the CAMM module yet increase awareness on the benefits to its users and other stakeholders. The CAMM module does not disadvantage any Zambian owned clearing company as alleged. Clearing agents are advised to embrace new systems and procedures as these are meant to enhance transparency and productivity,” he said.

The Independent Observer

John Sakala is a Journalist yearning for independent journalism

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