Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Zimra officers resist lifestyle audit

ZIMRA acting Commissioner General Mr Happiness Kuzvinzwa addresses journalists during a media workshop at a Bulawayo hotel.
ZIMRA acting Commissioner General Mr Happiness Kuzvinzwa addresses journalists during a media workshop at a Bulawayo hotel.

The authority’s workers union has since filed a High Court application, challenging the decision to conduct a lifestyle audit by management.

According to an affidavit filed by John Chirenda, Zimra Trade Union (Zimratu) president, the lifestyle audit is unlawful.

“The respondent (Zimra) has embarked on what it alleges a lifestyle audit. The lifestyle audit is being used to harass the lower rank employees particularly members of the applicant (Zimratu). Management officials are not members of the applicant and have been excluded from the lifestyle audit,” he argued.

Chirenda said initially, the union was not against the idea of a lifestyle audit, as it felt that it was necessary to have such an audit in order to curb any form of corruption by Zimra employees.

“However, the intended benefit has turned out to be a nightmare and harassment for the lower rank staff,” he said adding that they had requested for audit guidelines in writing.

“To date, the applicant has not been provided with guidelines as regards the lifestyle audit. Applicant has also not been provided with an explanation why management and board members are not subject to the lifestyle audit.

“I submit that the court can take judicial notice as it has become a norm that most of the top management has literally more than five houses in the low density areas. Their children go to the most expensive private schools and their grown up children drive the most expensive vehicles, for example Mercedes Benz, Range Rovers etc.

“Their wives shop in the most expensive supermarkets and stores at Sam Levy Village and other areas and some of them even have shares in the most of the stock listed companies.

“No explanation has been given how they have managed over the years to acquire such wealth especially if they are depending on their salary,” the court was told.

Chirenda said the lifestyle audit must instead start with the board of directors, commissioners and managers, before it goes to the ordinary members of the union.

He also said the auditors were checking their bank transactions dating back as far as 2005 and 2006.

“What the unlawful auditors have also been doing is to go to the person being audited’s rural home and harass the employee’s parents, ask them whether the employee has any cattle, goats, chickens, pigs and any form of livestock and also to identify the employee’s fields in the rural areas and how he has been financing the tillage and harvesting of the same.

“They have gone to the extent of asking the parents how many wives the employee has and how many children as well as how many illegitimate children there are. In my view, this is complete harassment and cannot be considered to be a lifestyle audit,” the court was further told.

The employees are now seeking an order interdicting Zimra from continuing with the audit exercise.

However, Zimra said the exercise was meant to deal with corruption in a bid to foster a culture of transparency and good governance.

“All employees of the respondent are taxpayers and where the respondent stumbles upon information which shows that the employee has received or is receiving other income from sources that have not been declared to the respondent as the employer or has acquired assets which are not matched by the income that the employee receives from the respondent by way of remuneration, then that employee can be audited.

“The respondent can therefore carry out lifestyle audits on its employees as a way of verifying whether there was a full disclosure in the asset distribution as well as in fulfilment of the provisions of the Income Tax Act,” the court heard.

Zimra said the audit was necessary and was being conducted without any discrimination and favour.

The High Court is still to make a determination in the matter. DailyNews