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Durban-based Hamburg Süd is the first shipping line – and the first South African Revenue Service (Sars) client – to be granted exemption from the requirement to submit paper manifests to local customs branches, thus becoming the first fully electronic cargo reporter.

While the electronic reporting of pre-arrival manifests to Sars has been a requirement since August 2009, shipping lines are, to date, still required to present pre- and post-arrival paper manifests to local customs branches in order to account for cargo. This was also because the data accuracy of electronic submissions varied significantly between different reporters.

Sars’ implementation of the new Manifest Processing (MPR) system in June 2016, provided industry with the mechanism to also report acquittal manifests electronically. Additionally, the system is able to match customs clearances to their corresponding cargo reports (manifests) in order to identify instances of non-reporting.

Three months after MPR was introduced, the facility for full paperless cargo reporting was made available to shipping lines and airlines who submit both pre-arrival and post-arrival manifests to Sars electronically; submit complete sets of manifests without any omissions; achieve a reporting data accuracy rate of 90% or higher in respect of both their pre-arrival and acquittal manifests reported for each of the three months preceding any application for exemption from paper reporting requirements; and can maintain that level consistently.

A significant benefit to carriers reporting electronically is the cost-saving of hundreds of thousands of rands spent per year in the paper and administrative costs associated with submitting paper manifests to Sars offices. The process is now more efficient allowing for improved risk management, security and confidentiality.

“Hamburg Süd’s core business strategy is to deliver a premium service to our customer, and to achieve this, compliance is a core driver. SARS paperless reporting is in line with our compliance and sustainability strategy,” said Jose Jardim, general manager of Hamburg Süd South Africa.

For Customs, the mandatory submission of cargo reports forms a significant part of the new Customs Control Act (CCA) in order to secure and facilitate the international supply chain.

With the impending implementation of Reporting of Conveyances and Goods (RCG) under the CCA – targeted for 2018 – carriers of internal goods in the sea and air modalities are urged to follow Hamburg Süd’s example and ensure that they become compliant in good time so that they can enjoy a smooth transition to the new legal dispensation.

Paperless cargo reporting would bring an end to one of the last remaining paper-based processes in customs while further contributing to the expedited processing of legitimate trade through an enhanced and integrated risk management environment.

According to a Sars spokesman technical stakeholder sessions to implement the reporting requirements introduced by the new Customs Control Act are due to commence soon and carriers and other supply chain cargo reporters are urged to attend in order to ensure they adapt their systems in good time.

Source: adapted from FTW Online, Venter. L, “German shipping line first Sars client to become fully electronic reporter”, September 14, 2017.

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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.

ConCourtThe Constitutional Court (South Africa) handed down judgment in the Gaertner & Orion Cold Storage matter today on the unconstitutionality of certain parts of section 4 of the Customs and Excise Act, 1964.

Section 4(4)-(6) had been challenged in the Western Cape High Court in April 2013 and the matter was taken to the Constitutional Court to be challenged further.

The issue before Court was that SARS conducted a search in terms of section 4 at the third applicant’s premises (Orion Cold Storage (OCS)) and at the house of Mr Gaertner, a director of OCS.

The Act does not require SARS officials to obtain a warrant before a search is conducted and the Applicants launched the proceedings in the High Court in which they sought, and were granted, orders declaring parts of section 4 unconstitutional to the extent that they permit targeted non-routine searches without judicial warrant.

The Applicants argued in the Constitutional Court that section 4 is over broad in that it allows for non-routine or targeted searches by SARS without a warrant.

Briefly, the Constitutional Court order provides that –

  • The declaration of constitutional invalidity of sections 4(4)(a)(i)-(ii), 4(4)(b), 4(5) and 4(6) of the Customs and Excise Act 91 of 1964 made by the Western Cape High Court, Cape Town is confirmed.
  • The declaration of invalidity is however not retrospective.
  • The order is suspended for six months to afford the Legislature an opportunity to cure the invalidity.
  • The Constitutional Court also instructed that during the period of suspension, section 4(4) of the Customs and Excise Act must be applied in accordance with alternative wording.

To access the Constitutional Court judgement (November 2013), Click Here!

To access the Western Cape High Court judgement (April 2013), Click Here!

English: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Directo...

English: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director, World Bank, Washington DC; Global Agenda Council on Corruption, is captured during the session ‘Zero Option for Corruption’ in the Congress Centre of the Annual Meeting 2010 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not a few people raised eyebrows at one session of a senate committee when the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, intervened during proceedings. Unlike most public hearings in the National Assembly, the particular one conducted by the Finance Committee of the Senate on the new Customs Bill was historic. Everyone agreed that the bill, which seeks to repeal the pre-independence Act, was timely. The dominant argument was that the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Customs and Excise have changed and required legislation to accommodate those changes.

From a modest outfit collecting taxes and royalties on coastal trading activities, the Department has evolved to become a large organisation employing over 20,000 Nigerians, with responsibilities cutting across revenue collection, border protection, public health and trade facilitation. The new law is to take account of the realities of the 21st century. Provisions were therefore made for electronic processes of Customs clearance, use of non-intrusive intervention methods to enforce controls and adherence with global best practice in customs operations.

However, Dr Okonjo-Iweala , who by virtue of her position is the Chairman of the Nigeria Customs Service Board raised dust when she expressed concerns over the powers of Mr President and the Minister of Finance as contained in the new Bill. Committee members were astonished when she appeared to labour to sound modest in kicking against the provisions which she complained ‘whittled down the powers of Mr President and the Minister over Customs’.

Another dissenting voice came from the Director of Budget in the Ministry, Dr Bright Okogwu, who argued that Customs should not be funded up to the tune of 2.5 % of Value on Board (FOB)’ as provided under Section 18 of the new Bill, although his earlier view appeared to support to the canvassed by Central Bank of Nigeria on the matter.

It is a fact that many Nigerians were not opportune to read the bill before the hearing. My interest in it followed claim of the possibility of creating a Customs outfit that would be too powerful to be under the thumb of the president or the minister of finance.

On the contrary, the bill does seek a stronger Board capable of enunciating policies devoid of bureaucratic bottlenecks. The bill still allows the minister enormous powers as chairman of the Board with the power to appoint some of its members.

But the notion that the bill strips the president of certain powers gave added impetus to the public hearing; Mrs Okonjo-Iweala was clearly agitated. But try as they could, no one could pinpoint the sections which allegedly render the President powerless over Customs matters.

The major omission in the existing legislations put up for repeal is the Customs, Excise Tariff, etc. (Consolidation) Act Cap C.49 of 1995. Perhaps the hullabaloo about the powers of Mr President stems from the erroneous impression that all the previous Acts relating to Customs matters were being repealed. Section 13of this Act is emphatic about the powers on the much-hyped waivers and concessions. The section vested on the president the power to impose, vary or remove any import or excise duty on goods that are liable to payment of such charges. This provision is still extant.

Opposition to Sections 42 and 43 which sought to prohibit by law the future use of Pre-shipment and Destination Inspection service providers was a source of disappointment to most Nigerians. Leading the pack of opposition was the Central Bank of Nigeria with the argument that the provision ‘ties government hands ‘, if such service is found necessary in the future.

Customs position throughout the hearing was to express readiness to take over its statutory roles. If there was any doubt about Customs ability, the CBN and the Finance Ministry, both supervisory organs of the destination Inspection should be held responsible for the orchestrated effort to perpetrate or institutionalise self-gratifying contracts.

All said and done, Nigerians are patiently waiting for the senators to do what is right and ignore sentiments associated with the various positions canvassed during the hearing. It should not be about muscle flexing of who wields what powers as was witnessed during the hearing. Nor should it be about the office holders, since the Service will outlive the current actors involved. It is about building a strong institution that can stand the test of time. Source: The Daily Trust (Nigeria)

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