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MRA Officer Accused of Swindling Importer Refunds Bribe

MSONKHO HOUSE: MRA head office in Blantyre

In a recent development, a Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) officer accused of swindling an importer of K1.2 million has finally returned the funds, thanks to the intervention of senior officers at the revenue authority. The incident involving Patricia Chipeta, a customs officer stationed at the bustling Lilongwe Inland Port, has been unfolding since February.

The importer, Hussein Islam, a well-known businessman from Lilongwe, found himself entangled in a web of corruption when he sought assistance from Chipeta to lower the K2.4 million duty on a consignment of lubricant oils he had imported from Dubai. Islam, whose business operates in the bustling area of Biwi in Lilongwe, had brought in the lubricant oils and solar lamps for resale in the country.

In his account of the events, Islam explained: “I approached my agent, Francis, who meticulously calculated the duty for the oils, considering that the solar lamps were duty-free. However, to my surprise, my agent informed me that he would negotiate with the MRA officer to reduce the duty on the condition that I pay K2.4 million, with the understanding that the officer would pocket half of that amount, i.e., K1.2 million.”

To Islam’s dismay, when the agent returned with the evaluation, it indicated that he had to pay a staggering K4.2 million.

“I was truly shocked because this wasn’t what we had agreed upon. Not only did I have to pay an exorbitant amount, but I also risked losing the money I had already paid to the officer,” he lamented.

Islam had been desperately trying to contact his agent since the evaluation, hoping that he would convince the officer to refund the extra money and enable him to pay the appropriate duty.

However, all his efforts to reach the agent had been in vain. Determined to seek justice, Islam walked into the MRA station office in Lilongwe two weeks ago to report the case.

At the office, he had the fortune of meeting Ms. Chilima, the deputy station officer, who reassured him that the issue would be promptly resolved. Islam expressed his frustration, stating: “I have been calling him [the agent], and he kept making promises to meet with the intention of facilitating the refund. However, nothing materialized.”

The agent confirmed having received the bribe and passing it on to Chipeta.

Efforts to reach the deputy station manager for comment proved futile, but the station manager, Khumbo Gondwe, confirmed the existence of the complaint.

Gondwe stated, “Yes, we have received this complaint, and we are dealing with it internally. We have summoned all the involved parties to a meeting to uncover the truth and address the matter.”

An inside source at MRA, who was present during the meeting, revealed that Chipeta eventually admitted her guilt and returned the money during the Wednesday session.

“She has repaid the money, and I have been informed that the issue has been referred to the MRA disciplinary committee for further action,” the source disclosed.

Despite numerous attempts to reach Chipeta, including phone calls and WhatsApp messages, she remained inaccessible, refusing to respond to the communication. This silence raises further questions about the gravity of her actions and the possible consequences she may face within the MRA.

The swift intervention of senior officers and the subsequent refund by Chipeta bring some hope that corruption is being tackled within the revenue authority.

However, it also highlights the importance of robust internal oversight and disciplinary measures to ensure the integrity of public institutions. The outcome of the disciplinary committee’s investigation will undoubtedly shed more light on the incident and determine the appropriate course of action against the accused officer.