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Tour and travel companies, whose vehicles were seized by the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA), are complaining that expecting the imminent release of their properties, although ERCA has so far delayed in complying with the orders given by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) to resolve the issue.
According to our sources at the Ethiopian Tour Operators Association (ETOA), about 32 vehicles belonging to 26 companies, which had imported them under the duty-free scheme, had been seized by the Authority, starting from two years ago until as recently as two weeks ago, on the grounds that they were being illegally used by tour companies for other purposes other than the one they were intended for. At a meeting held on the premises of MoFED a month ago, Sufian Ahmed, Minister of MoFED, ordered officials of ERCA to re-evaluate the issue on a case-by-case basis and release those vehicles against which there is no factual evidence of illegal use. Even though the Minister had ordered the authority to resolve the matter in short order, ERCA had continued to seize additional vehicles belonging to tour operators as recently as two weeks ago. The Authority and tour operators have been in dispute for the past two years since ERCA confiscated their vehicles on the above stated grounds with tour operators claiming that ERCA usurped their properties because the Authority has misunderstood the definition of tourism and have been clamouring to have the meaning clarified. Tour operators complained that their properties are falling into disrepair because they are not being used.
However, our sources at ETOA did admit that some tour and travel companies had indeed been using their vehicles for other purposes other than the intended one, but stated that it was the Authority’s job to find out which ones were doing this, instead of taking punitive action against all of them. At the meeting, the participants including officials of ERCA had reached an agreement to release the vehicles on certain guarantees like the implementation of an insurance bond and a scheme for customs duty payment. “If tour companies are found using their vehicles for other purposes, the ones that do such things must pay the relevant customs duties for the cars they have imported. Such a scheme should be put in place by the Authority to reclaim the dues it is entitled to in such cases. It was one strategy discussed at the meeting,” our sources said.
“But the authority has not released a single vehicle since the meeting,” they complained.
According to these sources at the association, on Wednesday ETOA wrote a letter to ERCA requesting clarification on the Authorities position regarding the release of the vehicles. If the letter, which was sent to Efrem Mekonnen, Public Relations head of ERCA, doesn’t elicit a response, ETOA will refer the case again to the relevant government ministry to once and for all resolve the matter, our sources concluded.  Capital tried to contact the public relation head for comments, but was unsuccessful.