After a four months long slowdown in the movement of goods at ports caused by the upgrading of Customs management system, it is now operating smoothly, said Comptroller of Customs Owen Holder.
In an extensive Government Information Service interview highlighting key developments in Customs, Holder said the system, ASYCUDA World, introduced last September, is working well and its users are perfecting their skills in using it.
He said: “All reports coming back to me suggest that there are no major issues.
“There will always be minor issues and we will try to keep on top of them.
“Overall, the system has settled down well and it is working properly.
“To ensure that the system is used efficiently, we are continuously working with stakeholders to address any issues that they might have, so that they can efficiently operate the system.”
Under the ASYCUDA system, Holder said that the main customs processes had now moved from manual to automation. He added that the new system offered greater accountability, allowing the management team to know what work was done, and by whom.
“It creates transparency where we can now streamline all processes,” the Comptroller told the BGIS. “We are able to report accurately on the importation of goods and to collect the duties on those goods.”
In outlining the department’s plans for 2020, he said his team would work closely with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) within the next six months to ensure the continuous automation of the Customs Department.
Holder said: “We are in the process of developing a training plan, where we are seeking to train the entire department in specific activities.
“During the year, we will be pursuing an aggressive training plan for all of the officers to ensure they are up-to-date with all the Customs processing requirements. We have already started training in various courses; for example, post clearance audit training is currently being conducted and immediately following that exercise, there will be border protection training.
“We are also looking at developing the organization’s strategic plan and implementing a performance appraisal system, and within the next two weeks, we will be starting the training for PRDS.
“During the latter part of the year, we are looking to develop integrity documentation where we will be looking to bring in the World Customs Organization to assist us with implementing the Arusha Declaration, which focuses on preventing corruption and increasing the level of integrity in Customs organizations.”
In another development, Customs is working to introduce additional “off-pier facilities” for the processing of imported goods, the Comptroller said.
“We are in discussion now with a major importer to develop their off-pier facility and we are in receipt of two other international applications,” he added.
He explained that some companies were seeking to provide “door to door” operations, where the imported goods are taken to their facility, processed by Customs and then deliveries made to the person’s door. He said this meant that those importers would not now be required to visit the port.
ASYCUDA World was highlighted by the Comptroller as a system to assist in trade facilitation, and he noted that entries were being processed through four selectivity lanes.
He explained that those who were compliant were given quicker access to their goods through the green lane; while those who were not compliant and would have to get Customs intervention went to the red lane; whilst the yellow lane was for the checking of documents. Blue lanes are used to assign shipments for post-clearance audit activities.
He pointed out that the implementation of the Trusted Trader Programme would also improve trade facilitation. Once businesspeople have met certain conditions outlined by Customs, then Customs’ intervention in the examination of their goods would be reduced.
The Comptroller’s interview came as the Customs and Excise Department prepares to observe International Customs Day on Sunday.
Customs officials will celebrate the day with a thanksgiving service at the Mount of Praise Wesleyan Holiness Church, Tudor Bridge, St. Michael, beginning at 8:30 a.m. The theme for the day is Customs Fostering Sustainability for People, Prosperity and the Planet.