SHIPPING: Customs Moves To Cut Costly Delays
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Within the next two months shippers and forwarders should see significant changes in Customs processes as the Department of Customs and Excise rolls out the first phase of its modernization programme that it believes will encourage cross border trade nationally and increase revenue.
A key aspect of the modernization programme, which it is hoped will reduce frustrating Customs clearance delays at all ports including airports, is a shift in focus to pre- and post inspection audits. This will reduce the number of inspections during customs clearance and streamline the procedure, says Mark Boucher of Customs@Wylie an initiative of Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys.
As many as one thousand additional auditors will be employed by Customs to carry out the increased number of pre- and post inspection audits. Furthermore customs will use a new risk engine which they believe will improve consistency in branch office decision making as, in most instances, it removes the discretionary powers of officers.
Client information will be automatically updated on the risk engine thus forming a comprehensive, reliable and factual database free of human bias. According to customs this will prevent repetitive, unnecessary stops and queries which are costly and time consuming for both customs and the client.
The programme also aims to eliminate manual submissions. Documents called for by customs when details pertaining to a shipment are queried, will be submitted via facsimile, e-mail or online through the SARS' website. This seems to indicate that manual submissions of any kind will not be permitted and clients will have to use the EDI facility, says Boucher.
Vouchers of correction, as they are known, in the import/export sector are also soon to be a thing of the past. Although details are sketchy, the intention is that corrections will be done online, says Boucher.
Furthermore Customs are working on a single registration document for all client types, thus significantly simplifying the current licensing and registration process.
It is expected that the modernization programme will save customs clients millions in storage costs as a result of delays, with the greatest effect on air cargo which is usually expensive and urgent and where there are strict time constraints.
“Theoretically it makes sense to focus on pre- and post audits and free up Customs officials to focus on other important issues including criminal activity such as smuggling, but whether it is practical or viable remains to be seen,” says Boucher.
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