BURS Secrecy in Digital Stamp Deal sparks More Controversy

  • BURS mum on records of illegal smuggling of alcohol
  • Business Botswana fears unintended consequences
  • US company expected to rake in millions in track and trace system

The Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) is concealing vital information that led to introduction of a multimillion-pula fiscal marking and  digital tracking system for tobacco and alcohol products sold in the country, a key industry player has said.

The Botswana Alcohol Industry Association (BAIA) says the taxman has failed to produce any research documentation or statistics on alleged smuggling of alcohol and tobacco products into the country. BURS recently entered into a 10-year deal with US-based company, Authentix, for fiscal markings and digital tracking solutions for tobacco and alcohol products sold in Botswana.


No figures
Suspended operations Commissioner at BURS, Phodiso Valashia, previously revealed that the smuggling of alcohol and tobacco products remained one of the biggest concerns of BURS.

However, according to the Secretary General BAIA, Jacob Sesinyi, BURS has failed to provide any figures that advise on track-and-trace solutions. “As the alcohol association, we don’t have any figures at all,” Sesinyi told The Gazette. “Yes, they told us that they wanted to implement Track-and-Trace but we insisted on research or that they present the figures and they never did.”

Business Botswana (BB) also says it has been months since it requested an impact assessment report from BURS without success. “We have asked for an impact assessment report and that they state the problem with us,” the organisation’s Director of Policy Advocacy, Dichaba Molobe, said in an interview.

“We did ask them to state all their issues and provide all sorts of evidence so that we both understand the magnitude of the problem. We are surprised as to why the contractor (Authentix) was the one announcing the deal, and not the client. BURS has not said anything to us regarding the deal with the contractor but we remain hopeful that they will revert to us.”


Tax compliance issues
Business Botswana has previously warned that the system’s implementation could have complex and unintended consequences for the alcohol and tobacco industries and the economy as a whole. It expresses fears alcohol and tobacco product prices may skyrocket and tax compliance become a lot more complicated.

Botswana is believed to be importing over 500 million alcohol and tobacco units per year. This deal means that Authentix will be responsible for tracking each and every unit for a fee for the next 10 years.

The Private Secretary of the Minister of Finance, Mpho Thorego, said Minister Peggy Serame was in Parliament and would respond to this publication’s questions during the course of the week.

At BURS, the Director of Communications, Mable Bolele, said she was unable to respond to Gazette questions as she was on a working trip. The questions were sent to her weeks ago.