Prominent businessman Ali Mufuruki has lashed out at the “abuse of power” in tax raids after the temporary closure of his shop in a night swoop Wednesday reportedly to inspect a cargo that was being offloaded.
According to the InfoTech Investment Group chief executive officer, a man claiming to be a Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) officer swooped on his Woolworth Stores offices in the city, and after allegedly refusing to identify himself, called his seniors from the taxman’s special task force, to investigate cargo that was being offloaded at that time, saying they were verifying tax compliance.
But the manner in which the whole exercise was conducted seemingly did not augur well with the businessman, who expressed disappointment through social media saying some members of his staff were also taken in for an hours-long interrogation.
“What is happening now has nothing to do with tax collection, it is abuse of power,” he said in a Whatsapp group text seen by The Citizen. “If (it) is allowed to go on unchecked, the gains we have made over the last 20 months will be rolled back.”
And speaking to The Citizen in an interview yesterday, the businessman confirmed having sent the text, and referred this reporter to his manager for further information since he was out of the country.
“As I write this message from Milan Italy, my manager is recording a statement at the Central Police Station for ostensibly threatening the security official,” he noted.
This is not the first time that businesspeople have complained against abuses by officers.
Early this year, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan also directed the newly-appointed TRA top brass to stop the harassment of taxpayers amid an outcry from traders over the unnecessary excessive use of force and abusive language.
“There are complaints from businesspeople that after they leave the port with their cleared merchandise they are usually stopped on the road by TRA officers, who demand to charge up to Sh10 million, which isn’t recorded anywhere.
When they ask why they (businesspeople) are treated that way, TRA officers claim that they are doing it as per instruction from their bosses, and proclaim ‘hapa kazi tu’,” the VP said shortly after the swearing in of the new TRA commissioner general Charles Kachere.
Mr Mufuruki said he had reported the matter to TRA Commissioner General for further investigations.
Mr Joehans Bushiri, general manager of Woolworth (W-store Tanzania Ltd), said they were not certain if the man belonged to TRA or not, and now they are putting their hopes on on-going investigations by the police.
Narrating the raid, he said the man who introduced himself as a TRA officer appeared “drunk” when he arrived at the shop in a private vehicle. They had just offloaded the shipment at night, since delivery trucks are not allowed in the city centre during the day.
“The man came with a private car and he was drunk. He refused to mention his name and did not provide an identity card; we started to doubt him,” he told The Citizen yesterday through telephone.
He added that they had nothing to hide since they had paid tax for the consignment, but still they needed to confirm he was a TRA officer as he claimed before allowing him to inspect the cargo.
“We are thankful because our business has been opened again and the police are investigating the case,” he said.
TRA director for tax payer services and education Richard Kayombo confirmed to have received the claim, saying that the case was now on the Commissioner General’s desk.
However, he refused to talk more about the matter saying investigations were underway. “I cannot comment on the matter because it is in hands of CG for investigations,” he said.