Some of the civil servants recently allowed to import vehicles duty-free are now abusing the privilege, importing vehicles for other people and charging a “fee” of between US$700 and US$1 500 depending on the type of vehicles.
The vehicles remain registered in the names of the civil servants involved while being driven by others. This means that the civil servant, who is allowed to import only one car every five years, has to continue walking while someone else pays to drive “their car”.
So far at least 6 800 civil servants countrywide have managed to import vehicles duty- free while other applications are still pending.
However, many car dealers in Harare are now importing vehicles in the name of civil servants duty-free and the civil servants, in turn, get a payment for allowing their name to be used to evade customs duty.
This fraud has prejudiced the State of revenue as people who should pay duty are now importing cars for free, and while some of the saved duty ends up with a civil servant rather than the car buyer, the Government still loses out.
The imported cars often end up on display at car sales and other garages. In some cases, the civil servants import the vehicles for individuals who then pay a “token of appreciation”.
Conditions for the rebate are that the employee must have a valid driver’s licence, must have served for not less than 10 years, only one car can be imported every five years and the car value depends on the employee’s grade.
According to Statutory Instrument 80A of 2022, grade B and C in the civil service can import a vehicles with a maximum value of US$3 500, those in D and E US$5 000 and deputy directors US$10 000.
The vehicle must be less than 10 years old from date of manufacture at the time of import, as is now the case with all imported vehicles.
Public Service Commission secretary Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe said the abuse of the rebate through importing vehicles for third parties was criminal and those caught will be dealt with in terms of the law.
“That is corruption. It is supposed to be a non-monetary benefit and if one decides to sell his or her car, duty must be paid.
“The Government sacrificed its revenue and allowed civil servants an opportunity to own vehicles. Treasury is being denied revenue for the sake of catering for civil servants. If any of the civil servants is caught on the wrong side of the law, stern action will be taken,” said Amb Wutawunashe.
The Herald visited a number of car sales in Harare to establish the truth.
Almost all car dealers are familiar with the fraud and they have their own set fees for the civil servants who are interested in the duty-free import deal.
A journalist was deployed at carsale premises at the intersection of Epton Road and John Landa Nkomo Avenue where he posed as a civil servant inquiring about the duty- free import deals.
He was taken to a young man only identified as Manyeruke, who claimed to have connections throughout the civil service.
“Which Government department do you work for? For how long have you been employed? What’s your grade?” asked the lad, who appeared knowledgeable with the Government systems.
“For employees in Grades B and C, we can offer you between US$700 and US$900 depending on the type of vehicle. But for those senior nurses who are in the same grade with some doctors, they can get up to US$1 500 but its negotiable.
“We will sell the car after importation but it remains registered under your name for some time,” said Manyeruke.
Another car dealer who operates along Seke Road said he deals with senior Government employees who are entitled to importing vehicles worth up to US$10 000.
“Cars are now expensive. It’s no longer easy to find a car worth US$3 500 these days. Prices went up and we are now dealing with senior officers who are allowed to import vehicles ranging between US$5 000 and US$10 000.
“In return, we can pay the officer up to US$1 500 depending on the type of car,” said the car dealer.
The SI notes that the rebate of duty can only be granted in respect of one motor vehicle imported or taken out of bond by a serving public servant of Zimbabwe who is employed in the Service Commissions and who is not a senior civil servant issued with a condition of service motor vehicle. The beneficiary, the SI states, should not be under any disciplinary proceedings.
The SI further states that the maximum import value of any motor vehicle shall not be more than maximum amounts agreed per grade. The SI states that the Secretary may only grant a rebate for motor vehicles purchased from traceable and registered car dealers and can request for proof of source of funds.
In consideration of an application for a rebate, the SI said the commissioner may revalue the motor vehicle in line with the existing customs valuation regulations in cases where they suspect undervaluation of the motor vehicle; or disqualify any applicant that wilfully undervalues a motor vehicle imported in terms of this rebate.Herald