Finance Minister Ryan Straughn has identified training and communications as priorities for Customs.
He told the Lower House during debate on the Customs (Amendment) Bill this afternoon there has been no consistent training for the Customs Department over the last few years.
“It is something that in listening to the Customs Officers when we [the Labour Party] were last in office, it was a matter of, in a sense, routine, that training took place.
“As we rebuild the department and where officers can be redeployed internally with respect to the department, then it means that there must, as a matter of course, be an enhancement of the training of the officers, and the engagement from that perspective, in order for the Customs Department to be in a position to respond to the myriad of queries that would confront it on a consistent basis.”
He also pointed to the need for the department to establish a social media presence to facilitate interaction with the public.
“Two weeks ago, I asked whether or not the Customs Department had a social media presence and the answer was no.
“And I asked myself how it is that you’re in the 21st Century and a department as critical as the Customs Department does not have some social media presence with a view certainly of being able to communicate with people almost in real time.
“The reality is that as a critical department which we have deemed to be fundamentally important to the success of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation programme, it must as a matter of course… be able to communicate with the public, with the various stakeholders, in a manner that’s as effective as possible.
“Because much of what has been put out into the public domain it is not always 100 per cent accurate and therefore the department must be, in my view, in a position to communicate with the public and say what is and what isn’t.”
Straughn added that such communication will be a critical part of the department’s reform agenda, in keeping with Government’s commitment to openness and transparency.
In addition to social media, he also called for the departments to move some of its services, particularly payments, online in an effort to increase efficiency.