Molepolole North legislator, Oabile Regoeng said he was concerned by the millions of pula that left the country through tax evasion.
In a question in Parliament last week, Regoeng wanted to know if it was not an opportune for travellers at ports of exit carrying cash above a certain threshold to produce proof from the bank that the money was withdrawn from and/or information on its real source.
Responding to the question, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Thapelo Matsheka told Parliament that there was no maximum amount of hard cash that an individual was allowed to carry when they travelled to foreign destinations. However, Matsheka said that in line with the general cash transaction threshold provided for under Regulation 19 of the Financial Intelligence Act, travellers in or out of Botswana are required to declare the money.
Matsheka said the traveller has to declare to the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) at the port of entry or exit, any hard cash in their possession exceeding P10,000 and provide proof of the source of such money.
“In the absence of such proof, or if there are any suspicions, investigations are carried out by BURS to ascertain the source of money carried across the borders of Botswana, and the legitimacy thereof,” Matsheka said.
“Subsequently, all transactions involving declared amounts at borders are reported by BURS to the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA) as part of Compliance Reports in terms of Section 36
The minister added that suspected false cash declarations are reported as Suspicious Transactions, and are analysed and disseminated by FIA to the Botswana Police Service and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) for further investigation. Regoeng revealed the motive of his enquiry when he stood up for a supplementary question asking if the minister was aware that there were certain businesses which made transactions in cash and did not have business accounts.
The minister responded by saying they were aware of some shortcomings and would be looking into loopholes.
Regoeng later told The Monitor he would engage with the minister further as he felt his question was not adequately addressed.
“I am concerned about many foreign-owned businesses that only transact in cash. They do so deliberately to evade tax and carry large amounts of cash to use in their home countries. “We need to come up with a way to ensure that we benefit from taxes they pay, but we continue to see them operating in the same manner over the years.”
Regoeng was of the view that the current system used by BURS was ineffective to stop the tax dodgers and said something should be done to address the problem as the country was losing millions of pula in the process.