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Customs boss pleads for patience as ASYCUDA is rolled out

Published:Monday | April 11, 2016 | 4:00 AM
Major Richard Reese, commissioner of Customs.

Commissioner of Customs Major Richard Reese is pleading for patience from importers as the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) transitions from a paper-based system to digital.

The Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) has registered some amount of unease among its membership about the Automatic System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), which is being fully rolled out by the JCA today.

ASYCUDA, an international management system that digitises the operations of Customs departments, requires that all documents relating to the movement of goods through a country's ports be submitted electronically.

"We crave the indulgence of the importers for consideration. The message we send to our clients is that if you have any form of challenge and it is not sorted out in reasonable time ... we ask that they have their brokers escalate it to the relevant persons at Customs," Reese said as he sought to address the concerns of the JMA.

Reese argued that the technology infrastructure to support ASYCUDA is designed with redundancy, and, as such, importers should not have a challenge with the software required to enter data for processing by Customs.

Reese added that while 98 per cent of the revenue sources are covered by ASYCUDA, the JCA is currently addressing the challenge of split shipments - where one container contains imports for multiple entities, which have different tax statuses.

"It's an ongoing exercise, but we are at the point where we are basically just perfecting the few areas where we have had a challenge," he said.

HIGH PRAISES

Reese had high praises for his staff whom, he said, have welcomed the introduction of ASYCUDA.

He rejected the suggestion that Customs employees are resisting the change to the digital system, which would reduce opportunities for corruption and under-the-table transactions.

"So far, we have not seen any indication of a push-back or reluctance on the part of our staff to grasp the new technology. In fact, I think they have exceeded expectations of the project in terms of the take-up," he said.

The Customs boss went on to disclose that opposition to the introduction of ASYCUDA has come primarily from importers and operators of private bonded warehouses.

"It requires a fair amount of data entry in terms of their existing inventory ... it benefits the importer and it benefits Customs in terms of auditing, but it would have required additional resources on the part of the private bonded warehouse operators and the importers," Reese explained.

Reese is further urging importers to make use of the services of registered customs brokers as all of them have received training in the use of the ASYCUDA system.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com