JG - Customs to go paperless: Special arrangements for barrel clients
Customs to go paperless: Special arrangements for barrel clients
published: Sunday October 19, 2008
Dionne Rose, Business Reporter
Danville Walker, commissioner of customs. - File
The Customs Department is to go paperless within the next 18 to 24 months, a transformation that Commissioner Danville Walker says will save $40 million per year.
You want to make sure you have technology that makes customs more efficient, but Jamaican ports are more competitive when compared to the ports in the region, so we remain a port of choice, he told The Sunday Business.
Walker had initially told retailers of his plan to move fully towards electronic transactions during a seminar organised by the Jamaica Chamber of Commerces (JCC) Customs Tariff and Port Users Committee, saying it was part of his drive to improve efficiency.
We have to become committed to it because the amount of paper we use in our systems in 2008, it is unacceptable, he said.
It is an unnecessary cost and it gives you a false sense of accountability and security. It is actually easier to perpetrate fraud using paper than it is in a paperless system.
Walker said the department was currently looking at either purchasing a new information-technology system or upgrading the current system.
The cost of either option is being hammered out now.
Walker, who just this year switched careers from election official to tax collector, said for the electronic system to work, there had to be buy in from those who transact business through the ports.
But he also said that the direction in which he is headed is in line with recommendations from businesses, which have been asking for more efficient procedures to speed up the clearance of their goods.
In short, Walker does not expect that the new electronic system will be a hard sell or require much persuasion for businesses to adapt to it.
But then there are those who are called the barrel customers typically, informal commercial importers and householders for whom computer access and credit-card subscription might prove challenging.
Walker said special arrangements would be made for them.
I think what they require is more customer service ... for them to process their documents faster, said the commissioner of customs.
Their system is easy it is just more bodies and a bigger warehouse space that really is whats needed to make that area more efficient.
Already, customs has two electronic systems in place: e-manifest, which records the pre-arrival of goods; and e-payment, set up in 2003 to allow importers and brokers to pay customs duties online.
However, less than 10 per cent of customs revenue is collected through the system, representing on average 4,000 transactions per month.
For our paperless goal, we have a little way to go because the bulk of the collection is not done electronically, said a spokesperson from the finance department at customs.
There isnt a reluctance it is a computer catching-on thing. Not everyone has a computer. The brokers are the ones who have the interest for the system but we are hoping that with increased education, there will be better opportunities.
Customs last year pulled in $72.415 billion a little above the national target, which was $70.842 billion but the Government has long said the potential revenue is much higher and that corruption represents an opportunity cost in billions of revenue lost.
One of Walkers chief mandates from his boss, Finance Minister Audley Shaw, is to clean up the corruption.
This years target collection at customs is set at $87 billion.