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New customs clearance measures introduced to close loopholes

2019-09-26  Edgar Brandt

New customs clearance measures introduced to close loopholes

WINDHOEK – The Ministry of Finance has responded to complaints regarding a perceived delay in the release of goods from the Transit Shed at Hosea Kutako International Airport, saying that it emanates from the introduction of new procedures to verify whether duties and taxes have been collected on all applicable goods. The new procedures, which were implemented in accordance with the Customs and Excise Act of 1998, came into effect on Friday, September 20, 2019.

According to the finance ministry spokesperson, Tonateni Shidhudhu, the introduction of the new control mechanisms was not intended to hamper the facilitation of legitimate goods that need to be released but was instead intended to control when and how goods have to be released. However, industry insiders believe the new measures were implemented to curb rampant corruption perceived to be rife amongst officials and clearing agents, whose activities deprived the country of much-needed tax revenue. 

“We have realised that there were possible loopholes of evading the process. As we assessed the processes, we found that it was possible for the items to be released without the paying of duties and taxes, under declared, undervalued or to be smuggled out. So, we had to act,” said Shidhudu.  He added that following numerous complaints from stakeholders, the Department of Customs and Excise in the finance ministry introduced a Customs and Control form that needs to be attached to every consignment.

“This form must be filled in first before the consignment is released. This is to curb possible illegal activities,” Shidhudu explained. 

The new regulations require that the Customs and Control form be completed by either an agent or representative, which in turn needs to be stamped by the chief or controller. It is this Customs and Control Sheet which has received a backlash by stakeholders, with some feeling that it is causing an unnecessary delay. 

The Customs and Excise Act of 1998 stipulates that the Customs and Excise Commissioner may introduce any measures considered necessary to streamline customs control and customs procedures.
“What we are saying as the Ministry of Finance is that it is not a delay, it is just an introduction of the form so that we could control what is coming in and what is going out and to verify whether duties and taxes have been collected,” Shidhudu concluded. 

Meanwhile, the relatively recently established Namibia Revenue Agency (NamRA), which is scheduled to become fully operational in October this year, has emphasised that it aims for faster clearance times for legitimate trade and increased transparency in regulatory processes and decision-making.

NamRA’s objective to improve coordination between various Customs units includes the coordination between Customs and other border regulatory agencies at national and international levels. They further aim for enhanced detection of irregularities and illicit consignments through the collection and analysis of data.

To support this new emphasis of access to vital customs information, the Customs Information Centre will offer online declaration of cargo to be accessed from the client’s office as well as pre-arrival processing for consignments such as perishables, medicaments and ship spares, to mention a few. In addition, while clients reserve freedom of transit, container inspections at client, NamRA has indicated that it will carry out importer and exporter premises inspections. 

Once fully operational, NamRA will replace the Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue Departments in the Ministry of Finance and will operate as a semi-autonomous body responsible for revenue collection, the administration of tax, customs and excise laws, as well as the efficient provision of services to taxpayers. 

2019-09-26  Edgar Brandt

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