Good Morning Colleagues,
Today I am extremely delighted to hand over this important institution to Mr. Dingani Banda. I am delighted because I am handing over a robust and vibrant tax authority to someone I employed in the Authority in January 2004 as Assistant Commissioner Data Management and Intelligence to help ZRA successfully implement ASYCUDA. Mr. Banda is a brilliant ICT specialist whose contribution to ZRA in various portfolios has been exceptional.
Analogically, on Friday last week, President Hakainde Hichilema gave Mr. Banda keys for a fully refurbished bus with 2,309 people carrying good food for a party with 18 million people in another town. He instructed you Mr. Banda to drive that vehicle, deliver the food and have a good party with 18 million people waiting. Your bus has a steering wheel, a hooter, windscreen, rearview mirrors, and accelerator among other driving accessories.
Therefore, for you to reach your destination where 18 million people are waiting, you must use less of the rear-view mirror and the hooter. If you focus in the rear-view mirror you will crush, kill the passengers, destroy the bus and the party will not take place. If you over use the hooter, the noise will irritate both passengers and other motorists on the road.
The bus is ZRA, the passengers are your staff, the food is the revenue, the 18 million people are Zambians waiting for Government to provide services of public good. Your rear-view mirror depicts your past frustrations and differences with your team members at ZRA. To avoid crushing, focus on your steering wheel front windscreen, your accelerator, and your breaks. Yes, check the rear-view mirror and use the hooter when it is absolutely necessary. Your hooter – Learn when to speak and when to keep quiet. Never respond to socio media. But focus on what the President has tasked you to do – generate revenue for the 18 million Zambians.
Show leadership and never make emotional decisions when dealing with your staff and taxpayers. Always remember that not everyone will like you. But that doesn’t matter. You are not in a popularity contest. In fact, if you become popular among smugglers and tax evaders Zambians must be worried. I know when my contract was terminated on Friday, there were celebrations in Nakonde, Chirundu, and Kazungula among smugglers. That was good feedback for me but show them that you won’t tolerate smuggling in any form.
As a leader you MUST like everyone due to the value they are bringing to the organization. Trust me, I have proved this in my 5 years at ZRA; there is a lot of value in unity despite our diversity as ZRA employees. Foster genuine unity and teamwork. If you start picking up battles with your staff and taxpayers, you won’t succeed in delivering revenues. Please use the immense power and authority in the office of the Commissioner-General to build ZRA and not to destroy it.
In the event that you find a mistake that I made during the course of my work based on the facts I had at the time, please just correct it. Don’t use it as an excuse for your failure and sing about it. There is a limit to which you can blame me for your failure beyond which people will start questioning you. I have left you with all the tools you need to change anything but please don’t change what is working because you will destabilize the institution and revenues will respond negatively.
As I said earlier, I am leaving you with a robust and vibrant ZRA. I am also leaving at a time when the Authority has fully delivered the 2021 revenue targets four months before the end of the year. This was not by accident; it was out of meticulous planning and execution of our performance strategies during the COVID 19 crisis. Your “landing” Commissioner General therefore is very safe and very comfortable.
Unfortunately, during your tour of duty at ZRA, you only have two options:
- Keep ZRA Robust and Vibrant or;
- Make ZRA more robust and more vibrant. (Full Stop)
Anything lower will not be acceptable to this Nation that desperately need revenues. Failure is not an optional and it was never our option since 2016.
I am leaving you with two major challenges:
- Value Added Tax – We grew VAT by 300% in 2017. Even the IMF team was shocked. This followed the introduction of Withholding VAT and collection at source. But by that time we had over K8 billion in refund arrears. So I made proposals to the government to stop the bleeding and refund arrears. I was almost killed. Both my staff and the business community called for my blood. VAT in Zambia needs to be reformed. We can’t afford a tax that creates debt. It’s as simple as that. If we want VAT, the government MUST allow ZRA to refund all due refunds in full. The gross VAT collections are enough to deal with new claims and not arrears. From K8 billion when I called for reforms, the debt now is K36 billion and completely unacceptable.
- ZRA funding model. This must be modernized and assured. You don’t need to continue writing letters and reminding the ministry to fund ZRA. This is not a sunk cost. It’s a lucrative business investment that must be over-prioritized because the dividends are obvious and immediate.
Be assured I will not leave you without the means to achieve this quest for excellence. For this reason, I will leave you with four “instruments of power” which in management we call Strategic Focus Areas:
- Staff/People – look after your staff very well. Don’t victimize them, counsel them, motivate them and ensure that you further improve their conditions of service. Of course, those that are truant and fraudulent help them out following the due disciplinary process. Over my tenure, I have improved ZRA conditions of service tremendously but please better them as much as you can; when you do this the staff will, in turn, support you and help you deliver
- Systems – please continue with the digital agenda. Invest more in technology and simplify compliance requirements. Enhance our Innovation Centre and our strategic partnership with the Copperbelt University; here I have no doubt because this is your passion.
- Taxpayers/stakeholders – harness them, support them, respond positively to expectations of your parent ministry, donors, etc. Taxpayers are the reason ZRA exists. Expand our customer service centers and enhance taxpayer education.
- Results /Revenues – don’t waste time on who likes you; who hates you, who said what when you were out of ZRA. That will drain you and result in negative energy. Forgive and forget – focus on the bottom line. That is what the President will appreciate as a thank you for selecting you out of hundreds of capable Zambians. I can assure you that consistent good revenue performance will keep you in the job.
If you use these tools religiously, you will make ZRA more robust and more vibrant. I will be available for consultation if necessary, anytime.
Before I end, let me appeal to all ZRA officers and taxpayers to support Mr. Banda as he takes upon this enormous responsibility.
I have set the stage the choice is yours. I genuinely wish you success and God’s guidance.
Dr. Kingsley Kangwa Chanda
Monday, October 11, 2021