Tax fraud, data black market trigger tech response by Zimbabwe’s govt
Going forward, Zimbabwe will monitor telecommunications traffic for revenue assurance, according to the country’s ICT Ministry and telecommunications industry regulator, the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz).
The Southern African country has three mobile firms - state-owned NetOne and Telecel, as well as Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed Econet, and one fixed phone operator, Telecel.
There are also a number of ISPs including Liquid, Africom and Dandemutande.
Until now, authorities have relied on voluntary declarations by telecommunications operators. This has changed and officials are now monitoring telecommunications traffic volumes and other trends to ensure that operators do not under-declare revenue and consequently inaccurate tax returns.
At the launch of the government’s traffic monitoring system this week, Gift Machengete, Director General for Potraz, said: “Until now, Potraz has relied on a self-declaratory regime, where operators declare their own revenues. However, the information and statements provided by mobile network operators has the potential of being inaccurate, which means the nation may actually be prejudiced of revenue.”
Machengete added that the system would also help with “combating telecommunications or fraud perpetrated traffic refilling and the use of grey routes or illegal gateways in the conveyancing of international traffic.”
Zimbabwe’s ICT Minister Jenfan Muswere said fraudulent telecommunications traffic ends up on “public networks through SIM boxes or illegal gateways” a situation that prejudices “operators and the economy of much needed foreign currency” earnings.
Econet, NetOne and Telecel have begun to offer some bundles in foreign currency, while still also offering local currency denominated talk-time and data bundles.
But the companies also have to compete with the growing black market for data. This typically involves dealers selling data packages at far cheaper rates than those offered by the mainstay operators.
Telecommunications industry insiders believe there is a clear demand for enhanced and upgraded technology platforms to combat these challenges, particularly since they erode operators’ revenue base.
One independent telecommunications industry technician, who spoke to ITWeb Africa on condition of anonymity, said, “There is open advertisement for Econet and NetOne data on social media platforms by black market dealers and this is prejudicing the operators. If the new system can deal with such fraudulent activities then the better because it helps both the operators and the government for taxation purposes.”