The recently implemented ASYCUDA World System is operating smoothly, says Comptroller of Customs, Owen Holder.
According to Mr. Holder, the system, which initially had some challenges when it was implemented last September, is working well and its users are perfecting their skills in using it.
“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,” he stated.
The Comptroller’s comments come as he and Customs and Excise Department staff are joining their colleagues around the world to observe International Customs Day on Sunday, January 26.
In Barbados, 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.
Mr. Holder emphasized the importance of the ASYCUDA System, saying that the main customs processes had now moved from manual to automation. He added that the new system offered greater accountability, where the management team would know what work activities were done, and by whom.
“It creates transparency where we can now streamline all processes …. We are able to report accurately on the importation of goods and to collect the duties on those goods,” he stated.
In outlining the organization’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.
“Additionally, 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,” he disclosed.
Mr. Holder said the department was working with stakeholders to introduce additional “off-pier facilities” for the processing of imported goods.
“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 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.
The Customs Department currently has about 230 employees and the Comptroller said there are plans for an additional 12 new officers to be employed shortly. He added that great interest was being expressed in working in the customs field.
“Daily, I receive applications online from persons who want to join the department. Even younger persons, including university graduates, are interested in joining the department. So, there is a very high interest in persons joining the department, and from my experience over the years, that has always been the case,” he noted.
Customs officers, he stressed, play a critical role for government as they are involved in revenue collection, revenue protection, border protection and providing trade facilitation to the trading sector.
“The Customs Department is responsible for collecting duties on all goods imported, except those that are given a waiver or concession by the Government of Barbados. With regard to revenue protection, we ensure that those concessions or waivers given are used in accordance with the requirements of government.
“We implement trade facilitation measures to ensure that there is a free flow of trade and that there are no barriers erected by the department for the flow of that trade,” Mr. Holder said.
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 persons 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. This programme is seen as a trade facilitation mechanism, and once business persons have met certain conditions outlined by Customs, then Customs’ intervention in the examination of their goods would be reduced.
So, as Customs officials continue to work assiduously to play their part in contributing to the ease of doing business in Barbados and propelling this country forward, let us take a few minutes on Sunday to reflect on their dedication to this nation.