130 clearing agents face port ban over unpaid dues

Friday August 14 2020


By Rosemary Mirondo and Ephraim Bahemu @TheCitizenTZ news@tz.nationmedia.com

Dar es Salaam. A total of 129 clearing agents risk being denied access to the ports for failure of paying  an undisclosed amount in outstanding balances for cargoes cleared from Inland Container Depots (ICDs)/ Container Freight Stations (CFS).
The arrears cover the period between July 2014 and April 2015 when some clearing agents are said to have managed to clear cargo from the port without paying the relevant wharfage dues, according to information, gathered from different clearing agents by The Citizen.
It was alleged during that time that some clearing agents allegedly used fake bank pay-in slips to cajole public officials who ended up giving them access to clear the cargo.
When Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) came to realise that some of its officials had been cheated by some unscrupulous clearing agents who had colluded with some dishonest bank officials, it was too late because some goods had  already been cleared.
Initially, the agents were to be denied access to the Port starting April 2020, pending payment of the dues.
However, despite issuance of several payment reminders, the clearing agents have failed to pay , prompting TPA to issue a final reminder which the agents now have up to Saturday this week  to pay.
“We have been told to pay by August 16, 2020 or risk other legal measures and being denied access to the port,” said a vividly concerned clearing agent who did not want to be named.
The Tanzania Freight Forwarders Association (Taffa)president, Mr Edward Urio,  confirmed to have received an official communication from TPA on the matter.
However, he could not establish how much the amount was because it was not officially communicated.
“This has come as a shock to us. We did not expect to become the culprits when we are the witnesses of a court case involving some TPA officials and officials of a bank who had mishandled payments of wharfage charges paid by our members during that period 2014/2015,” he said.
The TPA director general, Mr Deusdedit Kakoko, could neither confirm nor deny about the existence of the matter, noting, however, that in business, whoever refuses to pay chooses not to do business.
“This is an official subject, but you do business with the person who pays. If you don’t pay, you will not do business…We remain hopeful that they will all pay. Those who fail to pay are those who are not willing to do business,” he said.
According to Mr Urio, there was still a pending court case to arrive at what actually happened during the period.
He said some of the companies facing the suspension were amongst the busiest ones at the port.
“How were all these companies allowed to clear goods at the port without having paid the required fees which include payment to TPA in order to be issued with a receipt that is taken to the ICD or the CFS for the release of the consignment?” he wondered.
He said both the companies and government stand to lose if the port access ban becomes effective. “The companies will lose clients while the government would lose taxes,” he said.