Customs won't accept 'garbage information'

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

A top Customs official yesterday warned its new system will not accept “garbage information” as a Bahamian firm unveiled software designed to smooth the Click2Clear user’s experience.

Information Specialists Bahamas (ISL), a software development company, yesterday demonstrated at Customs’ headquarters its SWIM solution that is designed to ease the declaration process and related hassles endured with the Electronic Single Window (ESW) system.

Jasmine Hudson, superintendent of Customs and lead administrator for the system, said of ISL’s solution: “All businesses and individuals that import goods must be registered on the single window, and this system is one of the systems that allows the process of submitting your declarations to us to be more easier and smoother.

“We have companies that are presently using this system, and systems similar to this, and it has made their process a whole lot smoother and easier.” Tribune Business previously revealed numerous complaints with Customs’ new system, which was rolled out on October 1 for all New Providence’s seaborne cargo.

The major concerns harboured by brokers and large importers relate to the fact they were informed that shipments would be immediately released once due taxes (VAT and duties/excise tax) was paid on the declaration.

This was intended to speed up the clearance of goods at the border, benefiting Bahamian merchants, wholesalers and other importers through reduced supply chain delays and associated logistical costs. However, in practice, this is not happening as Customs is still insisting on checking consignments prior to their clearance even if taxes have been paid.

Other issues include “significant delays” to the replenishment of companies’ performance bonds with Customs even after due taxes are paid, and problems processing shipments where VAT waivers are required. The latter is understood to have added an extra business day to processing/clearance times alone.

Responding to these concerns, Ms Hudson said yesterday that the system “will not be changed”. She added: “The process now requires the declaration to be submitted and paid for, and then the examination is done.

“The system does not require new information; it just requires accurate information. Prior to now a lot of persons never really paid attention to what they were putting in the system, which meant that Customs was receiving a lot of garbage information because people were just putting things in.

“Now, this system does not allow that garbage information to be put in any longer. You have to put in correct information and the system will not allow you to put in garbage.”

Vouching for the efficacy and necessity of the Electronic Single Window, Ms Hudson said: “In the past companies were permitted to submit declarations prior to payment. Now the Government is seeing the revenue ahead of releasing. So it improves the Government’s revenue intake; it improves the data intake.

“Data is needed for [the Ministry of Finance] to make decisions when there is time for revenue changes to be made. This information needs to come in, and we need to submit correct data so that they can make proper decisions with respect to duty rate changes, with respect to goods being allowed into he country, what concessions would be permitted based on the amount of stuff coming in. So the data has to be a little more accurate so that they can make better decisions.”

Ms Hudson added that once the importer uses the right concession code, the system knows exactly what type of duty applies based on the code used.

Clyde Symonette, ISL managing director, said: “What’s happening now is that if you have an invoice that has some duty-paid items and some concession items, you have to submit two entries to Customs. That’s the advantage of SWIM. Using the one invoice, SWIM automatically separates the concession items and the duty items and sends them to Customs on one shot.”

Ms Hudson added that the system “lag” brokers and importers were experiencing last week had nothing to do with the Electronic Single Window crashing on its own, but instead infrastructure issues with the central government’s “cloud system” at the Ministry of Finance.

The “cloud system” is the feeder for the Electronic Single Window, and its provider, Cloud Carib, has since increased the amount of support and data provided to he Customs system so it can handle the volume of persons using it on a daily basis.