Commissioner General of Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Thom Gray Malata yesterday endured more than an hour of grilling by members of Parliament (MPs) on alleged unprofessionalism and favouritism by the tax collecting body.
Malata, who led a team of officials from his office, appeared before the Budget and Finance and the Public Accounts committees of Parliament, where the MPs told the MRA officials to stop being used by government and ruling party figures.
Lilongwe South parliamentarian, Peter Dimba, accused the officers of pouncing on MCP legislator Peter Chakwantha after being ordered by officials of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
“Why do you allow to be used by politicians to embarrass enemies of the state? You even go as far as parading the victims on public broadcaster MBC, where for instance Honourable Chakhwantha was prosecuted,” said Dimba.
The parliamentarian further slammed the revenue collector for treating people unequally in the collection of tax, wondering whether if evidence was laid bare that a cabinet minister is evading tax, MRA would proceed with an arrest.
But the MRA boss, who was flanked by other officials including Director of Finance, Sam Zuze, and Director of Policy, Timothy Makamba, said he is aware that some officers at MRA have been leaking private information and that a warning was already issued for disciplinary action.
“We are not being used, we allow the public to do tip-off anonymous, and most of them are messages on tax malpractice – sent within the system and we do thorough checks. We always try to act professionally. If indeed evidence was brought forth that a certain cabinet minister is evading huge sums of tax then why not? We would arrest such a minister,” said Malata.
Malata admitted that there is general non- compliance culture in paying taxes in the country and that the tax collecting body is doing everything possible to seal all loopholes.
“They are fraudulent invoices, goods on which duties was not paid but found in shops , general misclassification of goods, roasted books, smuggling of sugar, cement and this is prevalent among custom agents and the business community,” Malata told the meeting.
He added that the office is currently fighting in the courts as they are a number of arbitration cases where MRA is owed huge sums of money.
According to Malata, his office does not want to be hostile in how it works with the tax payer adding that it would be of great help if Malawians were on the right side of the law when it comes to paying taxes.
The legislators nonetheless queries the officials on MRA allocation of K21 billion in the 2016/17 financial plan arguing that the amount is not justifiable considering that the office has nothing to show after being allocated K14 billion in the previous budget.
Other areas of concern as raised by the members included the zero rating on mining exploration which, according to the legislators, is just an early Christmas gift to some investors who they said would now start claiming VAT when such businesses have even started benefitting the country.
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