|Big changes underway in Customs||| Print ||
|Thursday, 20 January 2011 10:45|
A revolutionary change is occurring within the Customs Department, a change that will have more than just an economic impact.
The change will speed up the customs process, facilitate trade, reduce administrative costs, increase customer service, increase compliancy and all without making anyone in the department redundant, says customs advisor Geoff Thorne.
One of the most radical changes will include the removal of the human element in the process of deciding how much intervention is required on the part of customs officers and how much duty is to be paid.
In the works for quit some time, the ASYCUDA system is now in effect, turning the customs procedures into an almost completely electronic process. Training is currently taking place for a total of 150 major commercial importers and customs brokers to get them up to speed on how forms are to be submitted and how the risk management process will work.
ASYCUDA, which stands for Automated Systems for Customs Data, is a web-based system which can be accessed from anywhere in the world at anytime, night or day. The new system, funded by the European Union, will make the department almost completely paperless, giving the customer control of their declaration, Thorne explains.
Declaration forms will now be submitted via computer through the ASYCUDA website, where all invoices and supporting documentation can simply be scanned and attached. An invoice will be created with the correct amount due in customs duty, which can be taken at any time to the customs office and paid.
Once the invoice is paid, the customer will go to a second window where a sort of traffic light system will determine how much intervention is required by the department.
The officer will check the computer, which will automatically produce a green, yellow, blue or red light, indicating the next steps.
The steps can be as simple green — which mean no intervention at all, go straight to the port to collect the goods — to red, which requires a physical inspection.
The computer system analyzes the electronically submitted information from the individual or broker and determines which color flag to give each declaration.
The analysis includes sophisticated data, which determines the risk based on a set of criteria. For example, the system can crosscheck amounts paid for certain items to determine if the claimed amount strays too far from the average. If so, a yellow light may be given, which requires an officer to verify the prices on the invoices. This all means both the duty and how much time is spent at customs is now determined by a computer.
“It is all about facilitation,” Thorne explains. “Those that are compliant will benefit from it.”
Those who are not compliant will find themselves with hefty fines or in the most serious cases facing prosecution.
Another change which will come through ASYCUDA is that only trained brokers will be given access to the system, meaning if you have three or more tariff items to declare you will have to go through a broker.
“In order to protect the integrity of the data, we have to ensure those using the system are trained, and we cannot afford to train everyone,” says Deputy Collector and ASYCUDA Project Manager Monica Simmons.
For those interested in handling their own declarations and have three non-commercial tariff items or less, Simmons says a help desk computer will be available at the customs offices where a trained officer can help a customer process a form.
Thorne points out that the efficiency of the new system can provide critical commercial advantage, getting the goods quicker to the market place.
“You can now process all your paperwork before the shipment even arrives, and you only have to go to the customs office one time to pay the duty, offering savings in money and time, which is often one in the same.”
Security has also been addressed, according to Thorne and Simmons, who say only the individual who inputs the information has access to that specific data.
Checks and balances are also in the works for the system, which in the fullness of time will be able to compare — even before the arrival of a boat or aircraft — the manifest against the customs declarations, ensuring all items are cleared.
“This is going to change the face of customs and has the potential to change the way other departments interact with the public,” Thorn said. Additional advantages include availability of more reliable statistics, which can help future business development.
Simmons said the changes also have a positive side for the customs staff. No staff will be made redundant with the changes, but she says they will be retrained and posted to new areas which will make the department more efficient.
Green: No intervention by the customs department
By the numbers
5,000: Number of paper declaration forms submitted each month
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