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Shaw eyes Christie for Customs - Former Contractor General being tapped to replace Reese

Published:Saturday | October 8, 2016 | 8:47 AMArthur Hall
Commissioner of Customs Major Richard Reese (right) answers questions from Finance Minister Audley Shaw during a recent media briefing.
Former Contractor General Greg Christie could be heading to Customs.

The Ministry of Finance is reportedly looking at former Contractor General Greg Christie to be the next head of the Jamaica Customs Agency.

Sunday Gleaner sources say Christie is being hand-picked to replace Major Richard Reese, whose three-year contract expires at the end of this month.

According to the sources, Christie is being seen as the right man for the job as the Government goes after a proposed 40 per cent increase in Customs revenue.

According to Finance Minister Audley Shaw, increasing the Customs revenue by 20 to 40 per cent is doable.

"When we combine ASYCUDA (Automated System for Customs Data) and the PCS (Port Community System) and deliberately root out corruption at Customs, then, believe it or not, we can increase the revenue from Customs by anywhere from 20 to 40 per cent," Shaw said during a National Integrity Action anti-corruption event.

This was given a guarded response by Reese, who warned that Customs could not guarantee that it will meet the challenge thrown out by the finance minister.

Pulling out all the stops

"I cannot say how much more we will achieve, but in other words, we're to pull out all the stops and collect what is due," Reese said in his immediate response.

That reportedly led to raised eyebrows at Heroes' Circle where the finance ministry is based and led to suggestions that Christie, a tough-talking attorney-at-law and anti-corruption campaigner, would be ideally suited to continue the radical transformation of Customs, which was started under Reese.

Finance Minister Audley Shaw, who is slated to return to the island today after leading a Government of Jamaica delegation to Washington, DC, to attend the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, recently refused to comment on whether Reese would be offered a new contract, but the ex-army man has made no secret that he wants to stay.

"I am a person who provides my services and I leave the assessment of my performance and determination to my employers," Reese told The Gleaner less than two weeks ago.

According to Reese, were he to be given another stint as head of Customs, he would want to complete the agency's reform agenda and implement "state-of-the-art fixed and mobile cargo X-ray machines with real-time remote monitoring and image capture on ASYCUDA, full integration of computers and ASYCUDA, and complete (the) human resource automation project".

Reese, who led the transformation of Customs from a government department to an executive agency in 2013, has pointed to the implementation of the ASYCUDA as his biggest achievement during his stint which started in 2012.

His vision of completing these far-reaching projects could fade away come the end of the month, but, according to Reese, "organisations, including Customs, are dynamic. I inherited business plans, I inherited strategies, so even if (I leave), the same would apply (for anyone taking over from me)".

Christie aware of any plan

Last week, Christie told The Sunday Gleaner that he was not aware of any plan to have him head Customs, and suggested that if there was a vacancy in the leadership of the agency the post would have to be advertised and the appointment made in line with Government rules.

Since the Andrew Holness-led administration was sworn in the former contractor general has been appointed to the boards of the Factories Corporation of Jamaica, the Agro-Investment Corporation and the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Science.