Govt policies hurt timber trade

24Jan 2016
Aisia Rweyemamu
Guardian On Sunday
Govt policies hurt timber trade

Timber traders have raised concern over a turf war between the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) and the Tanzania Forest Service (TFS), saying it is hurting their operations.

Improving governance in Tanzania's forestry sector

Danford Roman, a timber trader between Mozambique and Tanzania, told the Guardian on Sunday that the two authorities’ involvement in the timber trade had led to unnecessary impounding of timber being ferried into the neighbouring country.
He was speaking yesterday during a ‘Mama Misitu’ tour in the region which has been funded by the Finnish Foreign Affairs ministry.
“These authorities compete in revenue collection, with each side creating an environment for a trader to pay the dues,” he said.
The traders urged the government to change the system, proposing that all charges should be collected by TRA to ease their business operations.
He said timber consignments had been blocked at Mtambaswala border station for three years since 2012 due to the turf war between TRA and TFS.
According to him, the cargo, with 2571 pieces of timber, had permission from Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources, with all the dues having been paid to TRA.
He said, however, that the tax body had later told them to pay Sh5,000 per timber without any valid reason, before impounding the cargo from 2012 to date.
However, a Tanzania Forest Service official clarified that the amount demanded was for investigation to establish the truth about whether or not the timber was harvested legally, adding that the government spent Sh170m for such work.
Nevertheless, the trader said he, alongside six others, refused to pay the fee and their timber was still being held by TFS.
“A case has already been filed against us, charged with providing fake documents to the tax body,” he said.
Another trader, Mashaka Waziri, complained that the presence of two organs, TFS and TRA, both dealing with the same issue complicated the situation for their businesses because each one of them wanted to benefit from the traders.
“We request the government to assign only one authority to collect due charges or harmonize them in order to provide relief to us traders,” Waziri said.
“If you clear all charges with TFS you will pass safely through with their support, even if the timber has been obtained illegally, but when you pay to TRA they will make sure they put some barriers for your cargo,” he added.
Mashaka Waziri wanted TFS to work according to the operative law.
TFS Assistant Manager Boaz Sanga elaborated that they impounded the timber cargo because some of the traders used to forge documents to show that the timber originated from Mozambique while it was not true.
The manager added that the traders should clear charges with both TRA and TFS, but admitted that TRA was the body which was legally supposed to deal with revenue collection.
Tanzania Forest Service is a semi-autonomous government executive agency which has been given the mandate to manage forest reserves (natural and plantations), bee reserves and forest and bee resources on general lands.