Nigeria – Single Window initiative back on track

After much controversy centering on allegations of corruption and impropriety, the Federal Government terminated the contract awarded to Single Window Systems and Technology Limited. The contract which allowed for a sole submission point for importers and exporters to lodge their documentation was unilaterally awarded by the Federal Ministry of Finance, under the Umaru Yar Adua administration, on behalf of the Nigeria Customs Service to the company registered in June 2010 with N 1m share capital.

The contract was reported to be worth N 4.5 trillion. The decision to discontinue the contract was based on an investigation by the Ministry of Finance which looked into the processes and the terms of the contract. The investigation which was approved by the President revealed that the contract breached the provisions of both the Procurement Act and the ICRC Act. Nigerian Customs received a letter of notification from the supervisory of the ministry of finance that a concession agreement had been entered between the Federal government and the Single Window System Technologies Limited, so where did the customs come into play before the contract was signed?”

Nigeria Customs Service had earlier said on the controversy, “How can a company enter such an agreement without the knowledge of the Nigeria Customs Service?” The Customs was not involved in the execution of the agreement entered by the Federal Ministry of Finance through the Former Honourable Minister of Finance; Olusegun Aganga. Therefore Nigerian Customs was not carried along by the company called Single Window System Technologies Limited. The tender was scuppered.

Recently, the Nigerian Customs Service convened a Single Window National Stakeholder Conference under the slogan – “Collaboration -Towards a Facilitated Trade Environment”. The conference and workshop took place between 23 and 26 April 2012, and was attended by several local and international delegates representing UNECE, UN/CEFACT, and donor companies German Development Company (GIZ), USAID and Crown Agents. Details concerning the launch of this event can be accessed via the following links – Conference Website and Conference Summary Report.

Comment: So what started on shaky ground has finally materialised into a fully-fledged Customs-led programme – the way it should be, and hopefully remain. Moreover, trade representatives and intermediaries will need to be an integral part of this development for it to attain success.

Source: Business News Nigeria and Valentina Mintah (Trade Facilitation Consultant).

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Namibia buys into ‘Single Window’ concept

From April 12-13, Southern African Trade Hub (aka USAID) presented Single Window as a cutting-edge tool for trade facilitation to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Finance, Customs and other private sector organizations, explaining how a NSW for Namibia could improve the Trading Across Borders index ranking, which currently stands at 142 out of 183 countries. Single Window is a crucial instrument that will eliminate inefficiency and ineffectiveness in business and government procedures and document requirements along the international supply chain, reduce trade transaction costs, as well as improve border control, compliance, and security.

Benefits for Government: A Single Window will lead to a better combination of existing governmental systems and processes, while at the same time promoting a more open and facilitative approach to the way in which governments operate and communicate with business. Traders will submit all the required information and documents through a single entity, more effective systems will be established for a quicker and more accurate validation and distribution of this information to all relevant government agencies. This will also result in better coordination and cooperation between the Government and regulatory authorities involved in trade-related activities.

Benefits for trade: The main benefit for the trading community is that a Single Window will provide the trader with a single point for the one-time submission of all required information and documentation to all governmental agencies involved in export, import or transit procedures. As the Single Window enables governments to process submitted information, documents and fees both faster and more accurately, traders would benefit from faster clearance and release times, enabling them to speed up the supply chain. In addition, the improved transparency and increased predictability would further reduce the potential for corrupt behaviour from both the public and private sector.

If the Single Window functions as a focal point for the access to updated information on current trade rules, regulations and compliance requirements, it will lower the administrative costs of trade transactions and encourage greater trader compliance. The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Industry and Trade underscored the need for Namibia to proceed with the Single Window concept, and advised participants that his Ministry, together with the Ministry of Finance, would jointly package the Single Window concept and submit it to Cabinet for Government approval.

In Southern Africa, Mauritius already has an effective Single Window, which is reflected in its “Trading Across Borders” ranking of 21. Mozambique recently launched its pilot Single Window. SATH will support and facilitate the processes for the establishment of a Botswana National Single Window system to streamline cross border trade. The current SATH Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) Cloud Computing Connectivity program, which is being piloted between Botswana and Namibia, provides an ideal technology platform for linking Botswana and Namibia Single Windows, leveraging the investment by BURS, Namibia Customs and SATH to date in the development of this system. SATH is currently in the process of gauging support for National Single Window in South Africa.

Excuse my cynicism, but the SA Trade HUB  has yet to demonstrate the viability of its Cloud Computing solution between Namibia and Botswana Customs. What is reported above is the usual sweet and fluffy adjectives which accompany most international customs and trade ICT offerings, ignoring prerequisite building blocks upon which concepts such as Cloud and Single Window may prove beneficial and effective. Past project failures in Africa are usually blamed on the target country in not bedding down or embracing the new process/solution – never the vendor. Given the frequency of technology offerings being presented by donor agencies on unwitting national states, there seems little foreign interest in ‘bedding down’ or ‘knowledge transfer’ than the ‘delivery of expensive technology’.

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