The government revenue collection agency has put up eight train engines and dozens of spare parts belonging to the state-owned Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL) for auction over unpaid taxes as the government's new revenue collection drive gathers momentum.
The taxman has warned in a notice that the cash-strapped railway company has until next week to pay up or its locomotives and spare parts which have apparently overstayed at the Dar es Salaam port will be auctioned to the highest bidder or disposed of in any manner that the customs commissioner deems appropriate.
"It is notified for information of the general public that the listed goods will be sold by public auction or disposed of in a manner the commissioner for customs and excise may deem fit if they remain uncleared from the customs area within 30 days from the date of this notice," said TRA in a notice issued on February 26.
The train engines and spare parts belonging to TRL are among hundreds of items being put up for possible auction by TRA if their owners fail to settle unpaid tax bills by the end of next week.
Other items that could fall under the hammer include power transmission poles and cables imported by the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (Tanesco) and water treatment chemicals owned by the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority (DAWASA).
Construction materials, motor vehicle tyres, cooking oil and alcoholic beverages abandoned by private companies and individuals are also on the list of goods that have overstayed at the port and could be up for auction.
However, the TRL consignment seems to be the odd one out if TRA goes ahead with the auction, given the fact that very few people, if any, could put the locomotives to their intended use.
The reconditioned Class 88 diesel locomotives stranded at the Dar es Salaam port were part of a project aimed at reviving the government's ailing railway company.
Asked about its stranded cargo, TRL said it was working around the clock to ensure the overstayed locomotive engines and spare parts were cleared from Dar es Salaam port before the deadline set by the tax collection agency.
According to TRA's notice, goods shall be withdrawn from the auction upon full payment of the respective duties and taxes.
Speaking to The Guardian On Saturday in Dar es Salaam recently, TRL Public Relations Manager Midladjy Maez said clearance of containers of the locomotives and spare parts was in the final stage, expressing hope that they would be released soon.
He said the containers were among many which were transported to the TRL Morogoro workshop for reconditioning of the 16 locomotives.
“The first phase of the project was completed in May, last year, whereby eight locomotives were remanufactured … these five containers consisting of eight locomotive engines and spare parts are meant for implementation of the second phase of the project,” he said.
He noted that the ongoing project to recondition the eight locomotives at the TRL workshop in Morogoro was a joint venture with SMH Rail Company of Malaysia.
Maez however added that due to the significance of the project, former Transport ministry Permanent Secretary Shaaban Mwinjaka and sacked TRA Commissioner General Rished Bade agreed to wave tax on the TRL equipment to speed up the project.
He said although the government exempted tax on the equipment TRL would be required to pay storage charges. Maez declined to disclose the envisaged amount.
“We have agreed with Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) to release the containers to allow the project proceed while TRL is working to clear the debt,” he said.
For his part, TRA Director of Taxpayers Services and Education Richard Kayombo said the notice was issued as a warning for owners to clear their overstayed cargo before the deadline.
“TRA issued the notice as a reminder to the owners to clear their cargo, and if they fail to do so the goods will be auctioned upon expiry of the notice deadline,” he said.