Traders suffer losses as TRA grapples with platform outage

What you need to know:

  • The platform, known as the Tanzania Electronic Single Window System, experienced disruptions on February 17, impacting port operations and causing financial strain for traders.

Dar es Salaam. Shipping, clearing and forwarding businesses are reeling from significant losses following a three-day outage of a crucial trading platform at Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA).

The platform, known as the Tanzania Electronic Single Window System (TeSWS), experienced disruptions on February 17, 2024, impacting port operations and causing financial strain for traders.

TeSWS, established by the TRA to streamline customs procedures and expedite cargo clearance, encountered technical issues, disrupting the submission of customs documentation and payments.

This outage prompted concerns among port stakeholders, who lamented the delays and subsequent increase in storage costs.

Despite TRA's assurance of resolving the issue within 11 hours, the downtime persisted for three days, exacerbating the situation for traders.

Tanzania Freight Forwarders Association (Taffa) president Edward Urio expressed disappointment over the prolonged outage, emphasising the need for transparent communication and mitigation measures.

“We were initially pleased with TRA’s announcement because we were informed that maintenance had started and that it would take 11 hours. Things took a turn for the worse, however, and the 11 hours turned into three days,” said Mr Urio.

Mr Urio highlighted the challenges faced by Taffa members, including the inability to make declarations and the invisibility of previous submissions during the maintenance period.

He urged TRA to consider waiving storage charges for affected consignees, asserting that customers should not bear the brunt of system failures beyond their control.

The system was put in place to enhance efficiency and transparency in trade transactions by streamlining customs procedures, reducing paperwork, and facilitating seamless trade transactions.

However, its recent disruptions have underscored the importance of robust contingency plans and effective communication channels to minimise the impact on stakeholders.

The system is hailed as a game-changer, poised to transform Tanzania's trade landscape. However, as with any revolutionary change, challenges have repeatedly occurred.

Mr Urio noted that the Dar es Salaam Port has allowed companies to submit requests for cost reductions caused by the delays.

He noted that shipping lines and inland container deports (ICDs) have also been affected and that lowering the costs will benefit end users.

The chairman of the Tanzania Shipping Agents Association (Tasaa), Mr Daniel Malongo, said they had expected the maintenance of the cargo clearing system to take a few hours.

“Unfortunately, the exercise took longer than expected. We were allowed to use the manual window before the system was restored on Wednesday evening,” he said.

The TRA commissioner general, Mr Alphayo Kidata, admitted that the taxman had issued a notice to the stakeholders, informing them of the plans to enhance the TeSWS.

However, he refuted claims that the process took longer than the established timeframe.

"The issue was addressed within the stipulated timeframe," he stated. "I am not aware of any instance where the timeframe was exceeded," he added.

The Port of Dar es Salaam director, Mr Mrisho Selemani, assured stakeholders that measures would be taken to mitigate the impact on cargo owners facing storage charges and penalties due to the system outage.