Emptying TFF accounts for TRA coffers: Robbing Peter to pay Paul?

02Jan 2016
The Guardian
Emptying TFF accounts for TRA coffers: Robbing Peter to pay Paul?

IT is not often that we hear that a company has been made to pay taxes by having its account sequestrated and the specific amounts removed from its account.

TFF president Jamal Malinzi

Even in recently hyper-publicized cases of the government as it embarked on curbing tax evasion by owners of containers using gate no. 5 at the port by discretion of Tanzania Revenue Authority officials and avoiding taxes, nothing of this sort happened. The various companies were given seven or 21 days as the case may be, and we heard some had ignored the president!

In the case of the Tanzania Football Federation and salutary claims of tax evasion by TRA, no such respect of the law, that is privacy of a company as firstly in its accounts. What can easily be described as an act of rape took place, with TRA impounding TRA accounts and forcibly deducting what TFF president Jamal Malinzi said was about Tsh250m, without any regard for the soccer body being a company like others, and true enough, a social entity and not a profit-making organisation. It was sheer vindictiveness, abuse of power.

The manner in which TFF has been treated is an illustration of what seems to be at hand in the first days of the fifth phase presidency, and probably its hallmark unless crisis brings it to change. It is contempt of civil society, total discretion on the part of rulers, laying primacy not at singularly of the law but what top officials feel about the law, and this outlook is in a breathtaking way equated with concern for social welfare, development. It is partially a return to the philosophy of the third phase, that development is revenues, more of it.

This situation is perhaps a result of the fact that it is soccer where all the virtual and perhaps real enemies of the Arusha Declaration are to be found. Those who have collected some cash make not a contribution to the sport or society but seek to make themselves important, in a TRA context of the term. Thus there is an effort at taxing each event and transaction, not levying an annual tax as with commuter buses; a special regime of levying on the spot.
In that case there is a psychological distaste at TRA for whatever TFF stands for, the reason for it being that leading clubs are clusters of people with money, and from a Nyerere perspective, ill gotten cash. In other words the revenue body descends on TFF not a civil entity, a body corporate perhaps with reasonably underlined tax liabilities but in the form of a vulture, picking whatever it can carry. In that manner it breaks into TFF accounts and hauls the cash, as those who run TFF, like Malinzi or his Young Africans SC, Simba SC or Azam FC associates, have bags full of cash. They can fill it up.

At some points however the matter starts to look a bit absurd, as the coaches for Taifa Stars were for instance being paid for by the presidency, in which case the fellow to be sequestrated would conceivably be Jakaya Kikwete or Ombeni Sefue, who should know all about those transactions. Surely it is the fellow who was paying the coaches who ought to have paid the taxes, and not the manager of the office the coach was working? Between money paid for services of the coach, thus merely passed by TFF, where does tax come in?

It is this same approach that was used by TRA and PCCB, the anti-corruption body whose own ways are stifling a bit, to say the least, to nail two former ministers and a permanent secretary upon retirement. The courts duly toed the line and imprisoned the ministers, for refusing to add 20 per cent on top of a net payment of 100m dollars per month (something of the sort) to Alex Stewart (Assayers), government auditors. The two bodies wanted the firm to pay tax from its net payment, and the ministers opted to stick to the contract. If they had accepted the TRA viewpoint, Treasury would have added 20 per cent payment to the firm and this is collected by TRA as government income - and everyone would say it had massively succeeded in boosting revenues !