Archives For August 10, 2015

The following video is somewhat dated, but reports still abound regarding corruption within the Customs division of the Ghana Revenue Authority. The video appears to be about 4 years old. The president, John Evans Atta Mills, seen here rebuking staff at the Port of Tema, has since passed on. His message is nevertheless timeless and should be heeded by all customs officials across the continent.

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EAC CompliantThirteen compliant companies across East Africa were awarded Regional Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) certificates jointly by Partner States Commissioners of Customs and Director Customs, EAC at a ceremony held at Serena Kampala, Uganda on 24th July 2015.

The Commissioner Customs, URA Mr. Dickson Kateshumbwa who represented the URA Commissioner General was the chief guest during the award ceremony. The Chief Guest observed that with the award of Regional AEO certificate, the project had now come of age and indeed puts EAC on the global map of being the first region to implement a regional AEO programme. The Director Customs, Mr. Kenneth Bagamuhunda congratulated the thirteen companies and remarked that the AEO programme will go a long way in supporting the SCT implementation and eventually spur the growth of intra and extra trade. The SCT Coordinators recited each company profile before all the commissioners and Director Customs awarded the Regional AEO certificate to each of the awardees.

The companies were selected after meeting the set admissibility as set out in the AEO selection criteria. The awarded companies participated in the project pilot phase of the project but have continued to demonstrate and maintain high compliance to the set standards. The companies, from different sectors have continued to move consignments under the AEO scheme and in return have been offered benefits that are now currently under review to ensure they are not only tangible but are attractive enough to draw interest from other traders. Source: WCO

SACU IT Connectivity ConferenceRepresentatives from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa recently to refine requirements towards the development IT connectivity and electronic data exchange to facilitate cross-border customs clearance in the region. The workshop was convened by the SACU Secretariat under the sponsorship of the Swedish government and technical support from the World Customs Organisation.

Work already commenced way back in 2012 on this initiative. Progress in the main has been hampered by the legal agreement which to date not all members of the Customs Union have ratified. One of the features of this initiative, however, has been the continuity of support rendered by the WCO.

This event was indeed fortunate to secure – once again – the services of S.P. Sahu, former head of Information Technology at the WCO. After his secondment to the WCO he is now back in his home country where he is the Commissioner for Single Window based in Delhi, India.

S.P’s years of experience in both the technical and operational spheres of customs and the international supply chain enable him to articulate concepts and solutions in a manner which are practical and simple to understand. The workshop recognised the need to accelerate border processes and to this end the border process should be limited to physical examination, inspection, release; declaration processes should be done away from borders.

While simple enough in theory, the notion of clearance away from borders could pose challenges. Many of Africa’s borders – including those of a ‘One Stop’ kind – have not fully embraced the need to integrate processing and synchronize Customs activities. The challenge posed by ‘regional integration’ is one of surrendering national imperatives for a common regional good. It imposes a co-ordination of and development towards ‘regional objectives’ with the same level of purpose as national states do for their domestic agenda’s. In the case of SACU, it challenges member state’s stance on what real benefits the customs union should aspire to, beyond the mere sharing of the common revenue pool.

The outcome of the workshop resulted in a more refined, do-able scope and objective. With Mr. Sahu’s experience and guidance, the revised Utility Block (UB) speaks to all facets (legal, operational and technical) of the ‘regional agreement’ to the extent it specifies in the required detail the programme of action required on the part of the member stats as well as the SACU Secretariat. Refinement of the UB includes the removal from scope of the Release Message, Manifest Information and bond/guarantee message for the purpose of simplification of customs processes.

What remains are –

  • An Export & Transit Message – which includes the Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) validated and approved by the Export/Exit country.
  • An Arrival Confirmation/Notification Message – where the arrival date time would be when the import country recognises goods as received and places the goods under its customs procedure.
  • A Control Results Message – which includes the results of data matching, inspection and risk assessment based on agreed business rules.

In support of the above, SACU recently agreed on a framework of a UCR which must be further discussed and agreed upon by the respective member states. The UCR is a structured reference number which will be used by customs administrations of the respective member states to ‘link up’ import declaration data with the corresponding ‘export declaration’ data electronically exchanged by the export country.

Regional traders who have electronic clearance and forwarding capability will also play a role in the exchange of data through the exchange of the UCR on export and transit information with their counterparts or clients in the destination country. Once the exchange of data is operational between member states, it will be imperative for the importer to receive/obtain the UCR from the exporting country and apply it to his/her import declaration when making clearance with Customs.

The SACU Utility block will be tabled at a future Permanent Technical Committee meeting of the WCO for consideration and approval. A Utility Block is a concept structure which is proposed under the WCO’s Globally Networked Customs (GNC) initiative which seeks to aid and assist its members in the operationalisation of Mutual Administrative Assistance agreements.