WCO supports SARS with AEO programme implementation

Under the framework of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) Customs Modernization Programme, funded by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, WCO experts were invited to lead an AEO Validation Workshop for the South African Revenue Service (SARS). The Workshop was held from 10 to 14 February 2020 in Pretoria, South Africa. Mrs. Rae Vivier who is the Group Executive responsible for AEO in SARS opened the workshop and welcomed the WCO and SACU representatives with a key note address to all attendees. She gave assurance to the audience that AEO is taken seriously by SARS and is one of the organization’s key deliverables. 

During the five day Workshop, the SARS AEO validation team was given an introduction to the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards (FoS), including all its Pillars, core elements, and AEO criteria etc. This was followed by a discussion on the essential elements of the AEO Validation Guidance, the sequential steps of the AEO validation procedures and the skills required by AEO validators. 

The participants, comprised of Customs auditors, legal experts and client relationship managers, were given an opportunity to share their views on the similarities and differences between AEO validation and post-clearance audit. The core values of Customs-Business partnerships were highlighted as an important aspect towards achieving AEO programme implementation. Auditors with a Customs compliance mindset were given security validation knowledge and taught how to hold discussions with business on coordinating and enhancing international supply chain security and safety. Another important element underscored during the training was that validation of the applicant is central to accreditation, and that the applicant’s supply chain may not be tested. Accordingly, the applicant is responsible for securing its own supply chain. 

The Workshop entailed extensive discussions on the self-assessment questionnaire prepared by SARS for potential AEOs taking part in the country’s AEO pilot. While referring to the WCO self-assessment template, the WCO experts also shared questionnaires by other Customs administrations. The participants and experts discussed how to enhance the questions posed, making it simpler for business to understand and answer them. A number of recommendations were made, including adding explanatory notes to the self-assessment questionnaire to help clients provide accurate information about their security and safety protocols.

A further aim of the Workshop was to include practical sessions, such as the mock validation process held at BMW’s South African plant in Rosslyn. Participants were told how BMW guarantees supply chain safety and security. Equipped with this information, the Workshop participants were given a walk-through of BMW South Africa’s processes for receiving goods. The lessons learned were shared among the Workshop participants and SARS management during the post-validation assessment. During that session, several Mutual Recognition Arrangements/Agreements (MRAs) signed between different Customs administrations were also referenced, so as to enhance learning and information sharing. 

SARS embarked on its Preferred Traders Programme (PTP) in May 2017. The initial number of 28 accredited traders (importers/exporters) has grown to reach 119 as of 14 February 2020. Under the SARS Strategic Plan for 2023, the priority will be to focus on improving voluntary compliance and supply chain security through implementation of the standardized WCO SAFE/AEO programme. At the same time, SACU wishes to roll out PTPs for all its Members, while moving towards a full-fledged AEO programme in phases. To this end, the WCO experts discussed and shared views on the PTP compatibility assessment tool aimed at ensuring mutual recognition of Preferred Traders among SACU Members.

Source: WCO, 19 February 2020

WCO SAFE FoS – 2018 Edition

SAFE FoS 2018 Edition2

The WCO has published a 2018 edition of its Framework of Standards. The 2018 version of the SAFE Framework augments the objectives of the SAFE Framework with respect to strengthening co-operation between and among Customs administrations, for example through the exchange of information, mutual recognition of controls, mutual recognition of AEOs, and mutual administrative assistance.

In addition, it calls for enhanced cooperation with government agencies entrusted with regulatory authorities over certain goods (e.g. weapons, hazardous materials) and passengers, as well as entities responsible for postal issues. The Framework now also includes certain minimum tangible benefits to AEOs, while providing a comprehensive list of AEO benefits.

The updated SAFE Framework offers new opportunities for Customs, relevant government agencies and economic operators to work towards a common goal of enhancing supply chain security and efficiency, based on mutual trust and transparency.

Customs officers and trade practitioners also be on the lookout for then new WCO Academy course on SAFE and AEO. The Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade is a unique international instrument which usher in a safer world trade regime, and also heralds the beginning of a new approach to working methods and partnership for both Customs and business. This E-Learning course aims to present this tool and the benefits of its implementation.

Uganda prepares to introduce AEO

Authorised Economic Operators (AEO), a scheme focusing on compliant companies to facilitate trade starts before the year ends. The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Public and Corporate Affairs Assistant Commissioner Sarah Banage recently disclosed that AEO is meant to enhance compliance “by removing barriers for the most complaint taxpayer”.

“Under the scheme, the benefit of being complaint will be red-carpet treatment offered by URA,” she stated, adding, “we want to demonstrate that there are rewards for being compliant.” Banage cited electronic submission of declaration without supporting documents, pre-arrival clearance of cargo, and self-management of bonded warehouses as some of the benefits. Others are: priority treatment when cargo is selected for control, choosing the place for examination, automatic renewal of licences and withholding tax exemption status.

Because the relationship between URA and its clients is “symbiotic”, it is expected that there will be an increase in taxes, Banage argued. Potential beneficiaries of AEO are: agents, importers, exporters, shippers, internal container depot operators, and others involved in international shipment of goods, among others.

To be eligible, Banage said, one should be involved in international trade, have a good compliance history, be financially sound, install and use customs automated systems like e-tax and should implement the AEO compliance programme. To be authorized, companies/organizations will apply to the commissioner, after which a preliminary consultation is done.

“We will then determine who should formally apply. Officials will adjudicate submitted documents before a site is inspected to ensure compliance with guidelines,” she said. Subsequently, a one-year certificate will be issued.

“An AEO is an individual, a business entity or a government department that is involved in international trade and is duly authorized by the Commissioner of Customs of Uganda Revenue Authority.”

Banage said that implementing AEO does not only have short-term results but also resultant long-term benefits to the business community. These include reduction of the cost of doing business and increased turnover over time, among others. In the middle of April, customs officials held a breakfast meeting at Serena hotel, Kampala where Chief Executive Officers of major organizations were sensitized about the plan.

Later, customs officials interacted with personnel of the Auditor General, Export Promotion Board, the Trade, Industry and Cooperatives ministry, the Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries ministry and Uganda National Bureau of Standards. Also at Serena, it was meant to “share with them the programme in order to capture their ideas,” according to Banage.

Weeks ago, URA asked companies to express interest in joining the scheme. Over 20 organizations applied and are currently involved in talks expected to culminate in attaining AEO status. “Admission to the scheme will depend on how the companies implement the compliance programme. By December, some companies should be authorized,” Banage added. Among others, those expected to benefit from the first phase are importers, clearing agents and transporters.

Regarding the East African Community (EAC), customs administrators have adopted an AEO policy framework. It was adopted in 2010 as a basis for implementing trade facilitation initiatives that drive economic development for the EAC. Under AEO’s mutual recognition arrangement, a government formally recognizes the AEO programme of another country, thereby granting benefits to the AEOs of that country. Under a regional project, companies in the five countries receive benefits related to the scheme. Among the benefits is priority treatment at customs points. Source: The Observer (Kampala)