Lusaka, Zambia Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa joined by U.S. Ambassador to Zambia Carmen M. Martinez and visiting Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Rodney Bent today opened a refurbished Client Service Center at the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA). Funds from a $22.7 million Millennium Challenge Corporation-financed Threshold program were used to refurbish the center. The grant also provided the ZRA with technical assistance to help streamline the Value Added Tax (VAT) registration process, which has reduced the time required to register for the VAT from between 2 to 3 weeks to just 6 days.
Recognizing that both the reality and public perception of corruption continue to be major impediments to the countrys transition to a stable democracy with a market-driven economy, Zambia established and implemented a policy of Zero Tolerance for Corruption in Zambia. As an extension of this national policy, the Government of Zambia in May 2006 signed an agreement with the U.S. to reduce corruption and improve government effectiveness through activities in two components.
One component of the program (Ruling Justly) promotes greater transparency while reducing opportunities for corruption in three target institutions the Ministry of Lands, the Immigration Department, and the Zambia Revenue Authority. Another component (Economic Freedom) assists the Zambian government in establishing the Zambia Development Agency, extending the Patents and Companies Registration Office to three provincial capitals, and improving management of trade at the borders.
I applaud the Zambia Revenue Authoritys work to reduce the time to register for the Value Added Tax to under a week, said Mr. Bent. By streamlining data input and the steps necessary to register for VAT, this program is promoting transparency and increasing business productivity in Zambia.
Businesses can now complete the streamlined process entirely at the newly refurbished Client Service Center without having to visit additional offices in the ZRA complex. The Client Service Centre will be a one-stop shop for all dealings with ZRA. The new center guides the customer with clearly marked areas for small and medium taxpayers. As part of the Zambia programs integrated border management initiative, the new center will also facilitate a one-stop-shop for clearing cargo and other services through a single information window.
Mr. Bent added, Zambia is a valued partner in the fight against corruption and I commend President Mwanawasa for his leadership. We thank our colleagues at USAID and the U.S. Embassy for all of their efforts throughout the implementation of this program. We look forward to strengthening our partnership with the government of Zambia as more implementation successes are achieved.
As part of the renewed commitment to transparency and public service, ZRA approved a new code of ethics that sets guidelines for professional and ethical conduct of ZRA staff. The ZRAs Integrity Committee, in collaboration with the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zambia Threshold Program, launched the new code today with President Mwanawasa leading ZRA officers in publicly affirming the code of ethics. The ZRA will soon display a citizens charter, outlining the level of service Zambians can expect from the agency.