Archives For South African Customs

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The U.S. Embassy in South Africa’s office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) donated border enforcement equipment and tools to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) at their K-9 facility in Kempton Park today. The equipment will be utilized in support SARS’ efforts to safeguard the borders in South Africa. The donation, valuing more than $105,000, includes vehicle GPS units, field binoculars, night vision goggles, handheld thermal imagers, radiation detector/pagers, and contraband detection kits.

The donation is a part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s longstanding partnership with the government of South Africa to support border security, trade facilitation and combat wildlife trafficking. U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Jessye Lapenn said, “Following South Africa’s success in hosting the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2016, we are delighted to support your continued efforts. This equipment will be used to help conserve your incredibly diverse wildlife species, promote economic development, and combat the multi-billion dollar illicit wildlife trade within your borders, across our borders, and globally. I am proud of the great work our South African and American teams have done together on these issues. Together, we are making a difference.”

An executive for Customs at SARS said, “from the South African perspective, we acknowledge and receive these ‘tools of the trade’ from the United States with gratitude. This donation will strengthen our long-lasting relationship with the United States, which has been assisting us since the 1990s. Our work together has helped us improve our fight against the illicit economy.”

With more than 60,000 employees, CBP is one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations and is charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. while facilitating lawful international travel and trade. As the United States’ first unified border entity, CBP takes a comprehensive approach to border management and control, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection into one coordinated and supportive activity. The men and women of CBP are responsible for enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws and regulations. On a typical day, CBP welcomes nearly one million visitors, screens more than 67,000 cargo containers, arrests more than 1,100 individuals, and seizes nearly six tons of illicit drugs. Annually, CBP facilitates an average of more than $3 trillion in legitimate trade while enforcing U.S. trade laws.

Source:  APO on behalf of U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

sars-edi-user-manualSARS has been operating Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) with its external stakeholders since 2001. More than 98% of all customs declaration (CUSDEC) transactions are today submitted electronically to Customs and the electronic submission of multimodal cargo reports (CUSCAR) is steadily increasing. Today, declaration processing is fully electronic end-to-end thanks to the availability of highly established EDI and Customs software service providers supporting the local customs and logistics community. SARS has also recently introduced a benefit for compliant cargo reporters who will be absolved of certain manual (paper) submission requirements once they attain an acceptable level of electronic submission compliance and data accuracy.

The ultimate objective is to ensure that all Customs-to-Business (C2B) transactions are electronic to enable full supply chain connectivity between the South African business community and Customs. This in turn enables the possibility of SARS accrediting or approving ‘supply chains’ as opposed to just individual trader segments (importers and exporters). The extent of electronic compliance is also a pivotal requirement for traders operating under the new Customs Control Act, to be enacted in the future.

SARS overall EDI capability extends further than declarations and cargo reports. In recent years Customs-to-Government (C2G) messaging has also been successfully established between SARS and the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) as well as the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). SARS is also engaging other government stakeholders concerning IT connectivity and data exchange.

Moreover, developments for cross-border Customs-to-Customs (C2C) data exchange are also in the pipeline and could come to fruition with the partner administrations in Mozambique and Swaziland in the foreseeable future. These initiatives will usher in increased supply chain connectivity through active use of the Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) between participating customs administrations. The ultimate objective here is the creation of mutual recognition benefits for local and cross-border traders based on their accreditation status agreed between the participating customs administrations.

The SARS Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Manual (which can be downloaded from the SARS EDI webpage) has been updated with the latest versions of SARS Edifact Data Mapping Guides as well as improved diagrams explaining the functional composition of the various electronic messages specified for Customs processing. Also included are the requirements for registering as an EDI user with SARS.

The manual includes recent updates relating to cargo reporting (manifests) as well as the updated customs declaration message incorporating recent inclusion of customs surety, penalty and forfeiture requirements. The latter enhancement removes another document based requirement (the Form DA70 Provisional Payment) for Customs Brokers with the view streamlining data requirements, enhancing customs billing and customs status reporting with the trade and logistics community. This EDI Manual will be an important document over the coming months and years in that it will feature updated electronic requirements in support of the new Customs Control Act. Watch this space!

DTCRecent speculation concerning the Border Management Agency Bill have brought about reaction from both within government and industry. While there appears widespread support for a unified agency to administer South Africa’s borders, the challenge lies in the perceived administration of such agency given the specific mandates of the various border entities.

The Davis Tax Committee (DTC) was requested to provide a view on the affect of the proposed bill insofar as it impacts upon revenue (taxes and customs and excise) collection for the fiscus of South Africa.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment, organisation, regulation and control of the Border Management Agency (BMA); to provide for the transfer, assignment, and designation of law enforcement border related functions to the BMA; and to provide for matters connected thereto. The functions of the BMA are (a) to perform border law enforcement functions within the borderline and at ports of entry; (b) to coordinate the implementation of its border law enforcement functions with the principal organs of state and may enter into protocols with those organs of state to do so; and (c) to provide an enabling environment to facilitate legitimate trade.

In short the DTC recommends that the functions and powers of SARS and the BMA be kept separate and that the Agency should not be assigned any of the current functions and powers of SARS with regard to revenue (taxes and customs and excise) collection and the control of goods that is associated with such collection functions. Of particular concern is the extraordinarily poor timing of the Bill. According to the 2014 Tax Statistics issued by SARS, the total of customs duties, import VAT, and ad valorem import duties collected amounted to R176.9 billion for the 2013-14 fiscal year. This was approximately 19% of the total revenue collected.

The DTC is of the view that to put so significant a contribution to the fiscus in a position of uncertainty, if the Bill were to be  implemented, is fiscally imprudent at this critical juncture for the South African economy. Follow this link to access the full report on the DTC website. Source: www.taxcom.org.za

Red Flags hang over BMA

August 16, 2016 — 1 Comment

Mesina-Beitbridge border crossing - Google MapsAccording to Eye Witness News, a draft law aimed at creating a new, overarching border control entity has run into problems.

Parliament’s Home Affairs Portfolio Committee has been briefed on the Border Management Authority Bill by the department, the South African Police Service (Saps) and National Treasury.

Cabinet approved the Bill in September 2015 to deal with weaknesses in the state’s ability to secure the country’s ports of entry.

The Bill proposes harnessing the responsibilities of Home Affairs, the police and the South African Revenue Service (Sars) among others in one agency under a commissioner.

The authority will take over the customs control functions currently undertaken by the South African Revenue Service. There are fears within the industry that it could compromise SARS’s achievements in modernising its customs administration that has facilitated the movement of goods across the border.

Red flags have been raised by both the SA Police Service and National Treasury over the Border Management Authority Bill.

Treasury’s Ismail Momoniat says while they support a single border control body, SARS must remain in charge of customs and excise and revenue collection.

“We’re talking of significant revenue collection, and that is a speciality… The Bill is a framework, it’s important it doesn’t generate uncertainty for an important institution like SARS.

The authority will be governed by a commissioner and overseen by an interministerial consultative committee, a border technical committee and advisory committees.

The SAPS’ Major General David Chilembe says the Constitution says South Africa must have a single police force. He says it may have to be amended if the new border authority takes over policing duties.

Chilembe also says the police, and not Home Affairs, should lead the new entity. Source: EWN.

The WCO, in its effort to assist Members with Strategic Planning activities and WTO TFA implementation held two back to back accreditation workshops in Pretoria, South Africa. These events were held during the week of 1-5 February 2016 and 8-12 February 2016, were funded by the United Kingdom within the framework of the WCO-DFID ESA project and HMRC-WCO-UNCTAD project and organizationally supported by the South African Revenue Service.

24Customs officers from the WCO ESA and WCA regions participated in the workshops and were assessed against the Customs Modernization Advisors (CMAs) and Mercator Programme Advisors (MPAs) required profile through a series of testing exercises, presentations, role-plays, group activities and plenary discussions.

Participants were also required to demonstrate their knowledge and strategic application of core WCO tools and instruments and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement along with their potential to facilitate discussions with senior Customs and other officials in a strategic context.

At these two events 15 participants successfully completed step 1 of the accreditation process as they demonstrated their potential to become CMA’s/MPA’s during the range of workshop activities.

From the five WCO CMA/MPA accreditation events held to date a total of 41 participants have been assessed as being suitable to become CMAs and MPAs under step 1 of the accreditation process and will be invited to participate in TFA implementation support missions under the Mercator Programme in order to complete the accreditation process. It is expected that the successful candidates are made available by their Customs administrations for further support missions in the future. Source: WCO

SARS Customs intercepted a male traveller from Tanzania carrying narcotics worth over R12-million at OR Tambo International Airport yesterday (24 January 2016).

The bust took place when the 36-year old man, who was carrying two large suitcases, was asked to put his luggage through the Customs scanner. The scanner image revealed 10 clear plastic bags that contained a white crystal substance.

Upon investigation this turned out to be 10 bags of Ephedrine. The total weight of the consignment was 40.20 kg with an estimated street value of R12 060 000. The man has been handed over to the South African Police Service and he is expected to appear in court. Source and photos: SARS

The SARS Customs Detector Dog Unit (DDU) recently deployed two trained detector dog handlers and dogs on foreign soil in Maputo, Mozambique. This forms part of a Customs co-operation agreement between the governments of South Africa and Mozambique.

The capacity-building programme provides for the training of at least eight detector dog handlers and dogs for Mozambique in over a period of 14 weeks followed by a ‘Train-the-Trainer’ programme for purposes of sustainability.

The deployment of SARS Detector Dog Handlers and dogs trained to interdict endangered species and narcotics in Maputo will promote and strengthen a  cross-border intergovernmental approach in the prevention and detection of smuggling of illicit, illegal goods or substances via ports of entry between Mozambique and South Africa.

The programme is designed to capacitate Mozambique Customs in the establishment of its own canine unit that will further enhance its current non-intrusive scanning enforcement capability at ports of entry and exit. Source and pictures: SARS

WCO Data Model Workshop, Pretoria, South Africa, Dec. 2015

SARS’ EDI and Customs Business Systems representatives with WCO Data Model facilitators Mr. Giandeo Mungroo (2nd from the left) and Ms. Sue Probert (2nd from the right) [Photo – SARS]

Officials of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) last week attended a WCO workshop on the Data Model facilitated by Ms. Sue Probert and Mr. Giandeo Mungroo. The event, held in Pretoria, South Africa was sponsored by the CCF of China as part of the WCO’s Capacity Building endeavours to promote the adoption and use of customs standards and best practice amongst it’s  member states.

The workshop was requested by SARS ahead of new technical and systems developments and requirements informed by SARS’ new Customs Control and Duty Acts. Moreover, there are also political ambition to institute a Border Management Agency for the Republic of South Africa. All of this requires that SARS Customs has a robust electronic tool to assist the organisation in mapping national data requirements according to specific needs.

Besides the use of a value added Data Model tool – GEFEG, it is imperative for the organisation to develop capacity in the knowledge and understanding of the WCO Data Model. SARS has successfully EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) for the last 15 years with various local supply chain trading partners and government agencies. Over the last few years SARS has been actively pursuing and promoting IT connectivity with regional trading partners with the express purpose to extend the benefits of eCommerce across borders.

GEFEG.FX software is used to model data formats and develop implementation guidelines for data interchange standards such as UN/EDIFACT. It is a software tool that brings together modelling, XML schema development, and editing of classic EDI standards under a unified user interface, and supports the development of multilingual implementation guidelines.

Version 3 of the WCO Data Model brought about a distinct shift towards an ‘all-of-government’ approach at international borders with the introduction of the GOVCBR (Government Cross Border Regulatory) message. The message and underlying data requirements facilitate the exchange of customs and other government regulatory information to support a Single Window environment.

WCO Data Model not only includes data sets for different customs procedures but also information needed by other Cross-border Regulatory Agencies for the cross-border release and clearance at the border. The WCO Data Model supports the implementation of a Single Window as it allows the reporting of information to all government agency through the unique way it organizes regulatory information. This instrument is already 10 years old and is seeing increased use by WCO members.

Amongst the benefits derived from the workshop, SARS staff acquired the following competencies that will not only aid their work but business user support as well –

  • Competence in operating the tool to build a source control collaborative environment to support national and regional harmonization;
  • Competence to build a base to conduct national/ regional data harmonization based on the WCO Data Model to support national Single Window implementation as well as Regional Integration;
  • Competence to build systems/ electronic interfaces between Customs and its partner government agencies including a Border Management Agency; and
  • Provide needed competence to develop, maintain and publish national and regional information packages based on the WCO Data Model.

Biggest bust of Rhino Horn at a South African airportSARS Customs officers at OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) last week intercepted over 41kg of rhino horns – with a total value of over R4.5 million – transiting through the airport. This is the biggest ever seizure of rhino horn by the SARS Customs team at OR Tambo International, Johannesburg.

As a result of profiling two foreign nationals travelling from Maputo to Vietnam via Johannesburg,  their baggage was intercepted during a stop-over at ORTIA. A Customs detector dog “Mimmo” reacted positively to two bags. The tags found on the bags also did not correspond to the tags presented to Customs officials during the initial questioning of the passengers. This is a practice commonly found with narcotics smuggling syndicates.

The bags had a strong garlic and glue smell, (a tactic to distract detector dogs). Further to the plastic wrapped horns, the zips of the bags were also glued in an effort to keep the odour intact and to make the inspection difficult. Subsequent physical inspection of the bags by Customs officials revealed the rhino horn allegedly being smuggled by the two travellers. Source: SARS

Thaba Mufamadi, chairman of Parliament’s finance committee. Picture - Financial Mail

Thaba Mufamadi, chairman of Parliament’s finance committee. Picture – Financial Mail

Parliment’s standing committee on finance (SCoF) has decided to postpone its deliberations on two draft customs-related bills until next year to allow importers and the freight-forwarding industry more time to comment on the proposals which threaten the status of City Deep as an inland port. This followed an appeal by the South African Association of Freight Forwarders that it had had insufficient time to consider the substantially revised draft Customs Control Bill and Customs Duty Bill, which required that imported goods would have to be cleared at the first point of entry.

The association, supported by a range of other business organisations, including the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, warned that the bills could be challenged on constitutional grounds if the process of consultation was deficient. All political parties supported the proposal by finance committee chairman Thaba Mufamadi on Wednesday that the deliberations on the bills be postponed until next year. He instructed stakeholders to make their submissions to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) by December 15.

Mr Mufamadi also took cognisance of concerns raised by Business Unity South Africa that parliamentary processes did not allow sufficient time to comment, for example, on the medium-term budget policy statement. Industry has warned of port delays and trade disruption if the proposals were to be adopted. The Customs Control Bill proposes that goods be cleared at the first port of entry into South Africa. This will mean that inland ports such as City Deep in Johannesburg would no longer be designated places of entry or exit for customs purposes. In the past, containerised cargo could move directly to inland ports on arrival in the country under cover of a manifest. A new declaration — of the nature, value, origin and duty payable on the goods — would replace the manifests.

SARS said these did not provide sufficient information to undertake a risk assessment. Another bone of contention for industry was the “extremely severe” penalties proposed in the draft Customs Duty Bill. Following the uproar about the proposals SARS offered a compromise earlier this week as a way out of the impasse. Instead of a clearance at the port of entry, a mandatory advance customs clearance of the goods three days before their arrival at the first port of entry would be required. Goods consigned to inland terminals such as City Deep would be released conditionally. The system would be tested for the whole of next year to iron out any problems.

An alternative option would be for the goods to undergo a lesser form of clearance at the first point of entry. This would still entail providing customs authorities with the same level of information on the tariff, value and origin of goods, which would be submitted by electronic data interchange. The importer would be held accountable for the information that was provided. SARS official Kosie Louw said that because this document would not have the formal status of a clearance certificate, it would not disrupt existing legal contractual arrangements, as claimed. The goods would still move CIF (cost insurance and freight) from the port to City Deep. SARS has also proposed softening the penalty provisions so that errors not resulting in any prejudice to customs revenue will be subject to penalties only after three warnings. These penalties will be discretionary and applied leniently in the first 12 months of the bill coming into force to allow business time to properly prepare for the change. An appeal process has been included. Source: Business Day Live. 

Amidst diverse expectations and feelings of excitement, anxiety and anticipation, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) migrated to its new integrated Customs and Border Management solution over the weekend of 17 August 2013. A new modern electronic solution Interfront can now rightfully claim some success even if it is an unseen component within a multi-layered, multi-technology solution of which South African Customs is now the proud owner. After 9 months of rigorous parallel testing between old and new, and a period of dedicated external testing with Service Providers of the customs business community, the decision to implement was formally agreed with trade a fortnight ago.

Interfront Customs and Border Solution (iCBS) replaces several key legacy systems, one of which has served South Africa for more than 30 years. The vast business and technical competence and skills which faithfully maintained and supported the old systems are to some extent in the wilderness now, but will hopefully find place within the new technology environment. While technology nowadays is particularly agile, and human physical placement at the coal face is under threat, organisations like SARS will always require customs technical business and policy competence to maintain the cutting edge.

There still remains an enormous amount of work to do regarding the alignment of the new clearance system with the specific guidelines, standards and principles of the WCO. With regional integration becoming more prominent on the sub-Saharan African agenda, the matter of ‘facilitation’ and ‘non-tariff barriers’ will inevitably become more prominent discussion points. Other salient features of the SAFE Framework of Standards such as Authorised Economic Operators and IT connectivity have already emerged as key developmental goals of a number of regional customs and border authorities. The timely introduction of Interfront places SARS in a pivotal position to influence and enable the required electronic linkages, crucial for the establishment of bi-lateral and multilateral trade agreements, transport corridors, and, support for ‘seamless’ multi-modal movement of cargo from port of discharged to its place of manifestation with limited intervention, based on the principles of risk management. Enjoy the Interfront video feature.

 

Proposed Durban-Free State-Gauteng Logistics and Industrial Corridor Plan (SIP2)

Proposed Durban-Free State-Gauteng Logistics and Industrial Corridor Plan (SIP2)

Notwithstanding on-going discontent amongst industry operators in regard to proposed legislative measures mandating customs clearance at first port of entry, the South African government (GCIS) reports that work has already commenced on a massive logistics corridor stretching between Durban and the central provinces of the Free State and Gauteng. Most of the projects that form part of the second Strategic Infrastructure Project (SIP 2), also known as the Durban-Free State-Johannesburg Logistics and Industrial Corridor, are still in the concept or pre-feasibility stage, but construction has already started on several projects.

These include:

  • the building of a R2,3 billion container terminal at City Deep
  • a R3,9 billion project to upgrade Pier 2 at the Port of Durban
  • R14,9 billion procurement of rolling stock for the rail line which will service the corridor.

Work has also started on the R250 million Harrismith logistics hub development to set up a fuel distribution depot, as well as on phase one of the new multi-product pipeline which will run between Johannesburg and Durban and transport petrol, diesel, jet fuel and gas.

The aim of these projects and others which form part of SIP 2, is to strengthen the logistics and transport corridor between South Africa’s main industrial hubs and to improve access to Durban’s export and import facilities. It is estimated that 135 000 jobs will be created in the construction of projects in the corridor. Once the projects are completed a further 85 000 jobs are expected to be created by those businesses that use the new facilities. Source: SA Government Information Service

Interested in more details regarding South Africa’s infrastructure development plan? Click here!

Trucks at Transnet Freight Rail's City Deep Terminal (Engineering News)

Trucks at Transnet Freight Rail’s City Deep Terminal (Engineering News)

Following up on last year’s meeting (click here!) of the minds, convened by the JCCI, a recent meeting in Johannesburg placed fresh emphasis on the dilemma which impending changes contemplated in Customs Draft Control Bill will have for the import and logistics industry in particular. The following report carried by Engineering News highlights trade’s concerns which are by no means light weight and should be addressed with some consideration before the Bills come into effect. Gauging from the content below, there is a clear disconnect between business and policy makers.

The closure of Johannesburg’s inland port seemed to be a “done deal” as Parliament deliberated the recently tabled Customs Control Bill that would leave the City Deep container depot invalid, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Johannesburg (JCCI) former president Patrick Corbin said on Friday.

The promulgation of the South African Revenue Services’ (Sars’) newly drafted Customs Control Bill, which, in conjunction with the Customs Duty Bill, would replace the current legislation governing customs operations, would have a far-reaching impact on the cost and efficiencies of doing business in South Africa and other fellow Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) countries, he added.

The Bill, which was the product of a three-year development process within the National Economic Development and Labour Council, declared that all imported goods be cleared and released at first port of entry. This was part of efforts by customs officials and government to root out any diversion and smuggling of goods, ensure greater control of goods moving across borders and eliminate risks to national security.

Speaking at the City Deep Forum, held at the JCCI’s offices in Johannesburg, Corbin noted, however, that City Deep had operated as an inland port for the past 35 years, easing the load on the country’s coastal ports, which were already strained to capacity. Despite customs officials assuring the chamber that the operations and facilities in City Deep/Kaserne would retain its licence as a container depot, he believed customs had failed to recognise the critical role City Deep had played in lowering the cost of business, easing the burden on South Africa’s ports and ensuring ease of movement of goods to neighbouring countries. As customs moved full responsibility of container clearances to the ports, port congestion, inefficiencies, shipping delays and costs would rise, and jobs would be lost and import rail volumes decreased, he noted.

Economist Mike Schussler added that the closure of the City Deep inland port operations would add costs, increase unreliability and induce “hassles”, as the Durban port did not have the capacity to handle the extra volumes and its productivity and efficiencies were “questionable” compared with other ports.

“The volume of containers going to overstay or being stopped for examination in City Deep [will] need to be handled by [the coastal] ports. If they can’t cope with the volume at the moment, how are they going to handle increased volumes,” Iprop director Dennis Trotter questioned. He noted that only the containers cleared 72 hours prior to arrival would be allocated to rail transport. Those not cleared three days before arrival would be pushed onto road transport to prevent blocking and delaying rail operations.

This, Schussler said, would also contribute – along with port tariffs and the cost of delays – to higher costs, as road transport was more expensive than rail.

He pointed out that South Africa was deemed third-highest globally in terms of transport pricing. It would also result in less rail capacity returning for export from Johannesburg, further leading to increased volumes moving by road from City Deep to Durban.

Sacu countries, such as Botswana, would also be burdened with higher costs as they relied on City Deep as an inland port. Trotter noted that the region would experience loss of revenue and resultant job losses. Over 50% of South Africa’s economy was located closer to Gauteng than the coastal ports. Johannesburg alone accounted for 34% of the economy, said Schussler, questioning the viability of removing the option of City Deep as a dry port.

However, unfazed by the impending regulations, Transnet continued to inject over R1-billion into expansion and development opportunities at City Deep/Kaserne. Corbin commented that Transnet had accepted the assurances from customs that “nothing would change and the boxes would still be able to move seamlessly once cleared.” The City of Johannesburg’s manager of transport planning Daisy Dwango said the State-owned freight group was ramping up to meet forecast demand of the City Deep/Kaserne depot.

The terminal’s capacity would be increased from the current 280 000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) a year, to 400 000 TEUs a year by 2016, increasing to 700 000 TEUs a year by 2019. Transnet aimed to eventually move to “overcapacity” of up to 1.2-million TEUs a year. Dwango said projections have indicated that by 2021, the City Deep/Kaserne terminals would handle between 900 000 and one-million TEUs a year. Source: Engineering News

SARS Customs Waterwing

SARS plans to operate jet skis (such as pictured above) along its vast river borders. [Picture – SARS]

Last week four Customs officers received their qualifications from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) after having successfully completed their written and practical examinations. The officers who hail from the Northern Cape region will commence active patrol and enforcement operations along the northern border between South Africa and Namibia.

The SARS Water Wing skippers received their SAMSA category R certificates after completing a four-day training course at the Van Rhyn Dam in Benoni.

The officers will from next week begin patrolling the Orange River, the border between South Africa and Namibia, where there are suspected illegal trans-border transactions taking place, especially in abalone, diamonds, narcotics and rhino horn.

“These officials are now qualified skippers with category R licences which will enable them to patrol inland waters such as rivers, dams and harbours. The success of this pilot programme now enables us to actively assist in enforcing the Customs and Excise Act without being totally dependent on other departments,” said Hugo Taljaard, Senior Manager: Detector Dog Unit (Oversight).

He said that although the two jet skis will mostly be used in the Nakop area, they will also be utilised as far as Cape Town harbour in the small craft side of the harbour. There are plans to expand the unit. Customs’ first water wing boat is currently being constructed and more details about its deployment will be communicated in due course.  The jet skippers all agreed that it was quite exciting to be part of this pilot programme. “I never in my wildest dreams thought that one day I would be doing something like this,” remarked one candidate.  “Having jet skis will increase our visibility and this will serve as a deterrent to illegal trans-border traders,” added another.

Over the last 6 years SARS has steadily been increasing its visible policing and enforcement capability across the country’s vast land and sea borders. The hugely successful Detector Dog programme has attracted much national and regional attention. SARS also has plans to increase its existing non-intrusive inspection (NII) capability. Currently Durban, South Africa’s sole CSI port, is the only port with a dedicated X-ray scanning facility. Source: SARS Communications Division and self.

Interfront logo2

Its been some time since I’ve penned an article on the South African Customs Modernisation Programme. Aside from it being the SA Revenue Service’s prerogative to communicate and publish notice of its internal developments and plans, some caution always needs to be exercised observing bureaucratic protocol, ensuring that the official message is forthcoming from SARS. Given the widespread interest in the programme as well as the development of the Interfront [formerly Tatis] integrated customs border management solution (iCBMs) as a wholly owned development of South Africa, I think it not out of place to inform the public interest on this matter. Readership of this blog has an extensive global following and a specific interest in Interfront developments.

Unlike ASYCUDA, Sofix, e-Biscus, and a host of other integrated Customs-tailored business solution offerings, Interfront’s solution for SARS will not include a client user frontend. In other words, the Interfront system (iCBMs) will essentially drive declaration backend processing. This comprises a fully integrated declaration validation and processing engine, supported by a sophisticated tariff engine and duty calculator; the latter offering future web-based services for customs users. In order to compliment the SARS corporate and standardised user interface approach, the iCBMs interfaces with SARS’s revenue accounting, trader registration, risk management, and case management workflow systems. Not only does this leverage cost savings and efficiencies, but ensures a unified ‘workspace’ for all of SARS employees.

Much of the Interfront technology is therefore hidden to the customs user, with traders experiencing an identical interface with SARS Customs, as it does today. From the outset of the Customs Modernisation Programme (July 2010), the approach has followed pragmatic migration of customs electronic clearance processing – across its 30 odd legacy systems – towards an integrated clearance process that could mimic the functionality featured on the new iCBMs. The modern technology and scalability of Interfront offers the ability and agility to enhance service levels and efficiencies to another level. At the same time, operational policies and procedures have been modernised with the aim and intent of meeting the requirements contained in Customs new Control and Duty Bills.

Much of the ‘change’ experienced by both customs officers and the trade over the last 2 years has prepared the country for the eventual migration to the new system. These have been significant, and at times painful changes, not without anxiety and apprehension. Over the last 6 months an even more painstaking and taxing effort has been expended by the Customs Modernisation Team, Interfront and other service providers in addressing a seamless harmonisation and switchover of customs business from disparate legacy systems to a new customs technology platform. The “Parallel Run” has witnessed the daily comparison of customs clearance data between the old and new systems, identification and logging of disparities (bugs), modification of the two environments to ensure the same result is achieved. This has not been an easy and simple process, as any country having undergone a system switchover can attest to.

This month, February 2013, service providers to the customs industry are readying their resources to commence user testing. This implies that service providers (computer bureaus) will engage their clients to prepare test cases for submission to customs to test the new Interfront process. Given that Customs legacy systems and Interfront have been synchronised to a high level of compatibility, the process for traders should not reveal much difference to what they have experienced over the period of modernisation over the last 2 years. One area of note will be the structure and content of Customs Response messages. Traders will have to familiarise themselves and test their interpretation of these messages to ensure they perform or respond appropriately to the instructions.

Satya Prasad Sahu - Technical Officer at the WCO provided members of SACU, SADC and the EAC comprehensive guidelines for the development of the GNC Utility Block concept in Africa (February 2012)

Satya Prasad Sahu – Senior Technical Officer at the WCO provided members of SACU, SADC and the EAC comprehensive guidelines for the development of the GNC Utility Block concept in Africa (February 2012)

In terms of compliance and compatibility with international developments, the new iCBMs is engineered on the WCO Data Model. All relevant simplification processes as exemplified in the Revise Kyoto Convention are likewise factored into its design, although not all of these will be immediately available with the initial rollout. Introduction of the new Customs Control and Duty Acts will require these principles to be fully functional and operational, however.

The WCO Data Model is the pivotal design component around which most of the new system’s business and validation rules are centred. This in itself is a major achievement as it bodes well for all future ‘cross border’, customs-2-customs connectivity initiatives. In this regard SARS is well advanced in bilateral and multilateral projects with key trading partners, for example IBSA (cross-global trilateral initiative), and in Africa, we are working with SACU, SADC, COMESA and the EAC to bring about regional customs connectivity. On a bilateral basis, initiatives with Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are developing nicely. A significant contributor to cross border/cross global customs connectivity is undoubtedly the excellent work brought about by the dedicated members of the WCO’s Globally Networked Customs adhoc workgroup. In June last year, the WCOs policy Commission unanimously endorsed the GNC architecture and Utility Block approach. African customs connectivity efforts have likewise adopted this model which ensures harmonisation and uniformity in approach, legal dispensation, data exchange, risk management and procedure. The WCO moreover plays a overseeing role in many of these GNC and capacity building initiatives across the globe – this assists greatly in sharing and learning of experiences.

I would think that the above should be sufficient to wet the appetites of customs practitioners, traders, ICT technocrats, and perhaps even legislators and bureaucrats on developments in South Africa. Subsequent to the launch of Interfront SARS will make its ideas and strategy relating to forthcoming initiatives known to trade and the business community. A Year of Innovation? Yes, and hopefully a happy tale that will bode well for the South African trade and supply chain logistics community, and some good fortune for Interfront in its business development in the region and beyond!