By Duncan Mlanjira
An individual, who took to social media complaining that Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) suspected he had undervalued a vehicle he bought from Japan despite providing proof of payment and all supporting documents, has finally won the appeal that others had asked him to follow up.
It all started when the individual hit the inbox of powerful critic on social issues, Onjezani Kenani, in which he narrated that he bought a vehicle (2001 Daihatsu Hijet mini truck) from Be Forward Japan at a cost and freight of $970 and had proof of payment.
It was shipped as scheduled on April 30, 2020 and an agent from Dar es Salaam dropped it off at the Songwe Border and handed it over to the complainant’s agent on 07/05/2020.
He said he paid duty upon receiving declaration forms from his agent for taxes though he felt the duty was high.
He made an e-payment through MO626 but was shocked to learn that the vehicle has been lifted at USD1,528.00 by MRA on suspicion that he had first under-declared.
“My agent, with the evidence of payment documents and all supporting documents available, did everything possible to get it released but failed, now we have to make an appeal to MRA head office,” he had said.
He had said he was reluctant to appeal as he had been tipped that since he had no connection at MRA’s Msonkho House in Blantyre, he won’t get assisted.
Thus he decided to approach Onjezani Kenani, saying he should post what he had gone through on his timeline, believing that there might be some ethical MRA officer who might see it and assist him.
The post attracted an avalanche of attack on MRA’s negative style of business, with a lot of people expressing their bitter and frustrating experiences they have undergone with MRA in trying to clear vehicles they had imported.
And indeed the complainant was right that ‘there might be some ethical MRA officer who might see the post and assist him’ because in the midst of the heated debate, MRA’s spokesperson Steve Kapoloma chipped in.
He asked Onjezani Kenani to advise the person who ‘inboxed’ him to contact him so that he could take him through the declaration process.
“It’s straight forward and acting on an informed position I can assist him or her.”
To which Po Mvula wanted to know from Kapoloma if he could share how this whole issue will end as it will help some people to comply with tax and clearing processes.
To which Kapoloma said: “Sure. I have just shared with him the procedure for appeal at technical/head office which can be done online.
“He has assured me that he will submit the application today and will be assisted accordingly.”
Inno Vula had asked Kapoloma to address the issue at Songwe border because the complainant who inboxed Onjezani Kenani is not the only one with this problem.
“Currently, there is so much congestion at Songwe border due to what MRA is doing to importers. The situation is not that healthy, bwana,” he had said.
And on Friday, the complainant got his relief when he received a letter from MRA with the subject: ‘Valuation opinion on used car Daihatsu Hijet truck manufactured in 2001 declared on C12968 of 2020 at Songwe’.
It said: “We acknowledge receipt of your letter in which you appealed against CFR Dar es Salaam value of USD1,528.00.
“We write to advise that after examining your case, the declared value of your vehicle has been accepted at USD970.00.
“This is in terms of the provision of Section 111 of Customs and Excise which is read together with the 25th Schedule of the Act.
In view of the above, Manager Songwe and Manager-DPC are by copy of this letter requested to facilitate clearance of your vehicle.”
Before Kapoloma ended the debate, Jibu Risasi Nyirenda had chipped in asking the complainant to soldier on and not to relent, saying he too lost a car which to date at the border because of being tossed from one office to another.
He, however asked the complainant to go meet the head of customs and build his case there.
Chikumbutso Rosemary Kondowe was intrigued and posed the question to Nyirenda why this is common because she has heard of many people complaining about this.
Nyirenda confirmed this, saying one is tossed from office to office and is finally referee to the same person who impounded it in the first place as if trying to frustrate you into giving up.
“Crazy stuff,” Nyirenda had said. “I think we need to take these things to court now.”
Wisdom Sankara Kamkondo advised the complainant to get the services of a lawyer, saying the matter will be settled faster.
He hinted that resources are available to people via law but they assume the worst before even trying.
Robin Nyang’wa said: “A knowledgeable agent knows the appeal processes. They start right at the border and if necessary you can appeal to the Commissioner General.
“Thereafter you can appeal to the court. Why is he complaining even before appealing?
“You first appeal at the port of entry by disagreeing with their uplifting the value of your vehicle. There is a committee which meets there and makes a decision.
“Every agent knows that. They do it quickly. I speak from experience involving my vehicle. If you disagree with their decision, you are at liberty to appeal to the Commissioner General at Msonkho House.”
Martha Khungwa was also incredulous, saying: “But why do they say you have undervalued when these days you give the agent the CAP link of which they can verify the vehicle, the invoices and all.
“We need electronic systems. [Elsewhere] e-customs helps a lot.”
Louis Uko joined the debate by asking if the complainant consulted on the position of customs before importation “because most people just like to complain when goods are at the border and don’t consult clearing agents before making transaction”.
He said people would do better next time after consultation, some of which is for free.
Alick Nyasulu said a Be Forward car has an internet link that MRA can access and a clearing agent is supposed to issue them.
“It helps deal with any cases of perceived underdeclaration. I think the information provided here is not adequate,” he had said.