About six top Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) managers are currently under the microscope as the taxman intensifies lifestyle audits to weed out corrupt elements in its systems.
The identities of the officials under investigation could not be established by the time of going to print. Zimra board chairperson Mrs Willia Bonyongwe confirmed that a lifestyle audit for some managers was underway but declined to reveal the number and when the process would be completed.
“Right now we have managers who are being audited. I am not sure (of the number and when it would end) and we really don’t say until one has a case to answer,” said Mrs Bonyongwe.
The intensification of lifestyle audits, especially for Zimra employees, comes at a time when junior staffers have broken ranks with the board, claiming it is deliberately targeting “small fish” while “tigers” go scot free.
Zimra Trade Union’s secretary general Mr Lovemore Ngwarati recently said employees will soon speak out about the imbalance in the conduct of lifestyle audits, adding that the employer is infringing on their rights.
“We are forced to begin to find several ways to circumvent the ongoing lifestyle audits as they do not have any sound justification.” However, Mrs Bonyongwe said the policy on lifestyle audits does not target anyone and has already been extended to several senior managers, some of whom are on suspension.
Mrs Bonyongwe said she was not in position to “talk about specific cases” of senior managers whose lifestyles have already been audited. Employees and their representatives have been called upon to support Zimra’s battle against the vice of corruption as it was depriving Government of revenue.
“You are aware that at one time, revenue collection was always below target to the extent that Government was struggling to pay salaries. Now with these measures, of which lifestyle audits are but one, revenue is coming up despite the economic environment.
“I know employees who have failed to explain how they got four or five houses in four years and several cars on top. I also know cases where employees who have been audited were found to be clean and have been exonerated. There are allegations that no manager has been subjected to lifestyle audits; that’s not true.
“Almost the entire executive was suspended because of this fight against corruption and were sent for hearings and have cases before the courts,” said Mrs Bonyongwe. Workers who feel they have been victimised during the process of lifestyle audits have been implored to approach the Board for redress.
Said Mrs Bonyongwe: “We have always had an open door policy with our workers. If they have information we should know they can come to us. Lifestyle audits are policy the world over and in Zimra that policy does not discriminate.”
Mrs Bonyongwe says there is always room to improve the way the audits are done. Lifestyle audits are carried out with particular attention on income received by an individual, and involves ascertaining personal expenditure patterns to determine if they are consistent with their declared taxable income to Zimra.
The lifestyle audits — which are primed to increase revenue generation for the country — are carried out to verify compliance of individual taxpayers in terms of the statutes administered by Zimra which include Income Tax Act (Chapter 23:06); Capital Gains Act (Chapter 23:01); Value Added Tax Act (Chapter 23:12) and Customs and Excise Act (Chapter 23:02).