(CNS): The collector of customs has revealed that there are challenges with the computer system at the customs department, which is not working as effectively as it could be. Charles Clifford explained that the system acquired by customs was not tailor-made and as a result there are shortcomings. But given the cash investment in the IT platform, he is doing his best to make it work and said it could be adjusted to meet the needs of his department.
Answering questions at the Public Accounts Committee last week, he said that his team was focusing on clamping down on duty evasion following a restructuring of the department to make it more efficient. He said the revenue collection unit, which now includes an experienced fraud investigator recruited to customs from the RCIPS, is now ensuring that risks in the system are addressed.
“It is an area where we want to bring greater focus,” he said. “I am not going to sit here and tell you there are not risks in the system, as there certainly are, but we want to plug as many of those holes as we can.”
Clifford said that from the very beginning his goal was to maximise the revenue collections and that it was more about plugging gaps than needing more resources.
He also explained to the committee how the department monitors the duty concessions given by Cabinet to developers to ensure that they are properly applied: When concessions are granted by Cabinet, a detailed list, including expiry dates and capped amounts, is sent to customs and officers enter the information into the IT system. So when the developer imports the relevant materials, it is measured against that and customs can therefore tell value of goods, the dutiable amount, the concession given and the actual duty paid.
He said that while his team is able to ensure duty concession are applied in accordance with agreements regarding the type of goods imported and the amounts, there was no way to verify if the materials imported are going to the development sites without inspections. To do that, he said, the department would require considerably more resources than are currently available.