Tanzania port authority officials suspended over tax scam

Prime Minister Majaliwa Kassimu at Dar Port Thursday.

Prime Minister Majaliwa Kassimu (C) at Dar Port Thursday.

Ten Tanzania Port Authority officials have been suspended, pending an investigation into alleged corruption and mishandling of public office.

The suspension came a head of an impromptu visit by Prime Minister Majaliwa Kassim Majaliwa on Thursday at Dar es Salaam Port after reports of the release of 2431 containers without paying taxes.

The new Tanzanian President John Magufuli has vowed to clean the mess within government, including fighting corruption, promising to establish a special court that will try corrupt officials who were making life difficult for most poor Tanzanians.

President Magufuli has repeatedly voiced concern at the level of corruption in government departments and tax evasion by the business community resulting in abject poverty among the ordinary Tanzanians.
The port which has been seriously blamed of corruption and inefficiencies is under ‘clean-up’ phase and the prime minister said “it’s enough.”

The tax evasion scam was revealed in the Port’s Inspection report to the Prime Minister which indicated that the containers were released between March and September 2015 without paying taxes through inland container depots including PMM, JEFAG, AZAM and DICD.

According to the prime minister the report indicates, the TPA management had only taken action against junior officials implicated leaving senior officials untouched.

“I am giving you three hours to submit all names of officials implicated in the report and you have seven days to retrieve all the untaxed containers,” he ordered TPA Chief, Abel Muhanga.

The latest decision by authorities to tackle corruption in government comes days after the latter sacked the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) boss Rished Bade along with five other top officials following the mysterious disappearance of about 349 shipping containers worth more than Tsh80 billion.

Police in Dar es Salaam told reporters that they were holding four officials who were fired by President Magufuli for questioning.

Diwani Athumani, Director of Criminal Investigation (DCI) said the police was still investigating the Tanzania Revenue Authority officials as requested by the prime minister and the president.

Meanwhile, Tanzania President John Magufuli has issued a seven-day ultimatum to the business community to pay their pending taxes and other bills including unsettled containers to the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA).

“There shall be no tax excuses, all those who have not paid for their containers have to deliberately go and settle their bills before it’s too late and counting starts today,” President Magufuli told a group of businessmen at State House in Dar es Salaam.

Tanzania Private Sectors Foundation (TPSF) Chairman, Dr Reginald Mengi lauded the president and urged him to effectively address the problem of bureaucracy and corruption amongst government officials.

Johnson Minja, Chairman, Tanzania Business Community said the government should move on to formalize small informal businesses to help improve businesses and positively contribute to the government resource basket.