Dar braces for paperless customs clearance works

Increasing efficiency at the Dar es Salaam port is inevitable if Tanzania has to attain maximum revenue collection through services that the imposing facility offers to the country and the neighbouring states.

The port provides crucial access to six landlocked countries—Malawi, Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Statistics show that, with its strategic location, the port is the gateway to 90 per cent of Tanzania’s trade, clearing over 15 billion US dollars (about 24tri/-) of merchandise annually, an equivalent of 60 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) last year.

According to a World Bank report on port performance, the total global welfare loss resulting from inefficiencies at the port in 2012 reached 1.8 billion US dollars (about 3trn/-) for the Tanzanian economy and 830 million US dollars (over 1trn/-) for the neighbouring countries.

The losses were equivalent to approximately seven per cent of the country’s annual GDP and affected local consumers, businesses and government agencies. The port inefficiencies therefore cost the nation heavily as citizens have to pay more for imported goods, including basic products like crude oil, cement, fertilizers and medicines.

To address the inefficiencies that have been plunging the nation into unbearable losses, the government through Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) is investing adequately to modernise the clearance processes at the port. Just last week, TRA launched the Cargo and Risk Management Systems that will boost and bring to the next level customs operations as well as increase efficiency of cargo clearance at the Dar es Salaam port.

The introduction of the electronic systems, the first ever in East and Central Africa, marks the beginning of paperless customs clearance operations at the port, eventually cutting down dwell time to five from around nine to 15 days.

Paper works will be called off come March next year when the new custom systems to enhance ASYCUDA ++ capacity in the flow of cargo becomes operational. “With the systems, the movement of shipping agents and importers from one office to another having packed with documents becomes history because all the clearance operations will be handled at the Inland Container Deport (ICD),” remarked TRA Commissioner General Harry Kitilya.

The systems, according to Mr Kitilya, will help all key stakeholders at the port like the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority to operate from their respective offices.

Apart from promoting transparency and good governance because multiple individuals will access and watch the clearance process electronically, Mr Kitilya said the systems will help the taxman to trace if the due taxes, duties or other charges have been paid accordingly.

The Acting Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Mr Patrick Kisaka said the new systems will compliment efforts to facilitate and provide quality services and improve environment of doing business in the country. 

The project that took two years to complete was carried out in collaboration between TRA as well as Customs Information Association-Korea (CUPIA) and Korea Customs Process Automation Agency (KTNET).

The South Korean experts will monitor the transfer of cargo from the ship to the ICD. “The systems will identify the segment of importers and suppliers with the ultimate goal of establishing the level of risk on whether to carry inspection or just scan the goods. If the system reveals high level of risk, inspection will be carried and where it is normal, then scanning will be enough,” he noted.

However, he said the success implementations of the systems will depend greatly on the level of compliance of the key stakeholders particularly importers as well as the shipping agents to provide necessary and accurate information at the statutory time frame for timely clearance.

The Korean ambassador to Tanzania Mr Chung IL said the systems are fundamental in improving tax collection. “With the ongoing customs modernisation, the country will become the centre of business and investment in the East African region,” he noted.

The president of CUPIA, Mr Kim Do Youl said through the systems, high and low risk goods could be selected thus enhancing decision making by customs officials on whether to inspect or just scan the goods.
Source: Daily News, reported by Sebastian Mrindoko, from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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