Customs and Excise department has panicked to avert more chaos at the stand-off happening at Songwe border crossing in Karonga.
The department has received backing from its mother body the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) whose commissioner general Thomas Malata has issued different statements bringing forth new ways of clearing goods at Songwe in a space of 48 hours.
The border crossing has for the past three months experiencing conflict between clearing agents, customs officials and importers. The agents complained about corrupt practices by officials but what followed were arrests of a group of nine agents and an importer leaving the mentioned corrupt officials.
But Malata has veiled the changes around coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, sugar-coating them to shield the chaos brought by customs officials at the border in Songwe.
"MRA is informing importers, exporters and the business community that they can pre-clear their goods though the Pre-Clearance Facility to avoid congestion at the border. Pre-Clearance is a facility that allows importers and exporters to submit declarations and supporting documents to Customs for processing before the arrival of goods at the border," says Malata.
He says the Authority would therefore like to encourage importers and exporters to use the Pre-Clearance Facility as one way of avoiding congestion at the border and observing social distance following the outbreak of Covid-19.
"MRA would therefore like to assure importers, exporters, the business community and the public that it is committed to expedite the clearance of imports and exports at the border beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. Stay safe. Observe social distance," concludes Malata in the first statement.
He however pushes out a complete change of customs procedures in another directive within 48 hours by ordering that cars must not be cleared at Songwe border.
The agents arrested at the border crossing are accused of faking invoices to pay less taxes andduties.
"MRA is informing the business community, the public and importers that it will start clearing used motor vehicles at its Customs Inland Ports in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. The Authority will be clearing the used motor vehicles on a 60-day pilot phase starting with used motor vehicles imported through Songwe Border Station," Malata says.
All imported used motor vehicles are cleared at the border but Malata avoids to mention the chaos there by sugar-coating the major change saying, "The clearing of the used motor vehicles at inland ports will allow importers to properly plan for their businesses".
People using the Songwe border crossing are also complaining that they are denied an entitled personal travellers' allowance of not paying tax for imported goods valued up to K300,000.
The allowance is called personal rebate and it is an entitlement to every Malawian that has been out of the country for more than 24 hours.
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