Pressure is piling on Kenya to open its electronic revenue (Simba) system to East African clearing agents almost five years since it invited customs officers from the region to operate at the port of Mombasa.
Traders from other member States have launched the complaint with the EAC Council of Ministers, accusing the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) of delaying cargo clearance by denying their agents access to its Simba system.
Under Kenyan laws, however, clearing agents can only gain access to the taxman’s e-platform if they are registered by the KRA as domestic operators.
“We have opened our systems in the interest of free trade but our agents don’t get the same treatment in Kenya,” Mr Alex Mujeru, Rwanda Revenue Authority’s deputy Commissioner told journalists in Kigali during a media tour.
“I know this matter is being handled by the ministers even though Rwanda has not specifically demanded reciprocal treatment for its agents in Kenya.”
The region began implementing the single customs territory in 2013, taking up a revenue collection model in which taxes on imports are declared and paid at the first port of entry into East Africa. Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi have since stationed their customs officials in Mombasa even though Kenya is yet to send its officers to the port of Dar.
Traders say the presence of region's customs officers in Kenya has not increased efficiency as EAC agents still have to nominate Kenyans to facilitate clearance via the Simba system.
To act for other EAC agents, most Kenyan firms demand between $150 and $200 (Sh20,000), notes Ms Jennifer Mwijukye, managing director of Unifreight, a Kampala-based clearing and forwarding agent.
“This is a cost that would easily be avoided if KRA granted us access to its Simba system the same way Uganda and Rwanda have opened their revenue platforms (Asycuda World) to Kenyans,” said Ms Mwijukye.