By: Anthony Bwalya
Last year, the Zambia Revenue Authority had made a lot noise about how First Quantum Minerals (FQM) owed the tax authority, and by default Zambians, an amount to the tune of $7.6 Billion in unpaid taxes.
At the time, many of us wondered how, under the watch of a competent tax authority, such an amount could go undetected under existing customs clearance mechanisms, let alone go unpaid. We had further sought clarification around how this tax dispute between the ZRA and FQM had arisen in the first place to help us get a good sense of the balance of tax and customs expectations from both ZRA and FQM’s perspective.
This information was critical to help the public make a judgement as to whether or not the mining house was being deceitful in it’s import declarations, or it was in fact officials at the ZRA making false customs assessment in respect of big money businesses for private gain to themselves.
As usual, this information was never given and thus the public up to now is not able to determine who the enemy of the Zambian people truly is.
Now, we have reliable information to suggest that FQM has settled this tax dispute by paying much less than 1% of the total amount under dispute. And ZRA have rolled out their red carpet of secrecy and deceit by refusing to disclose the settlement amount, using the preposterous excuse of taxpayer confidentiality. And yet, this issue is a subject of such prime public interest which warrants the public to know the details of whether or not we are getting a fair share out of our mineral resources.
At a time when the PF government is making noise about how much of a corporate bandit Vedanta’s KCM has been over the years, and the vigor with which they have been washing KCM’s dirt in public, we have always (well I have always asked) whether the much talked about bad business, dubious business practices by Vedanta and KCM were only unique to this particular investor; and that the others have been playing by the rules.
The PF have allowed the ZRA to breach the so-called taxpayer confidentiality code in respect of Vedanta and KCM, but are quick to hide behind the same facade in protecting FQM.
So, in the spirit of transparency and trust, and for purposes of building sound investor – citizen relationships, can the PF government order Mr. Kingsley Chanda and the ZRA, to furnish the Zambian public with the full details of this once $7.6 Billion tax dispute with FQM, as well as details of how we eventually decided that FQM should only pay less than 1% of this amount.
Let me end by saying, that we have a government and government institutions, that are conniving to defraud our country.
We must stand up and say no to this madness.