Customs modernising system through international online networking
Guyana Chronicle
October 31, 2002

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CUSTOMS and Trade Administration (CTA) within Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) is upgrading its Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), so that transactions can then be done online.

Through that updated process, people can interact with officers one-on-one without actually going to a CTA office which, among other things, would help to enhance the overall image, efficiency and effectiveness of the network.

CTA Commissioner, Mr. Lambert Marks said Tuesday that, with the implementation of ASYCUDA ++ (Version 3), importers can prepare their entries on software, submit them online and pay through commercial banks, avoiding having to move cash around.

He said other benefits are the provision of trade information to relevant stakeholders online, printouts in the required format, massaging of stored data for more analytical purposes and effective record keeping.

According to him, the development would also facilitate investigations, reduce corruption and allow for the establishment of linkages for shipping agents, brokers, importers and exporters to receive messages through which releases can be effected.

Marks said the innovation was created by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and he and two officials from that international agency, Mr Geoffrey Thorne, Regional Coordinator and Mr Fernando Siles, Information Technology (IT) Advisor, made presentations on it Tuesday in the Training Room at CTA headquarters, Main Street, Georgetown.

Marks said that, over the last week, UNCTAD consultants and a CTA officer, who was identified to liaise with them, have been meeting with the relevant stakeholders, such as Ministry of Finance, Bureau of Statistics, Bank of Guyana, Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Internal Revenue Department, Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture, Hydrometeorological Department, Customs brokers and clerks, the Shipping Association and senior CTA officers "in an effort to highlight their concerns and bring on board their inputs that are needed as we embark on this post implementation review of ASYCUDA++".

Marks noted that, in the early 1990s, the Guyana Government took a decision to implement the ASYCUDA methodology and a named project team completed the training in May-June 1994.

He said some of the tasks undertaken by that team were legislative reform to accommodate the Customs Declaration (Form C72) introduced in November 1995 and that included the removal of some 14 Customs forms.

Marks said ASYCUDA commenced "live running" at Customs House on April 1, 1996, with some benefits derived being an increase in revenue collection, faster processing of declarations, provision of timely and accurate trade data and savings to the trading public, because importers/exporters/brokers no longer have to purchase and stock different kinds of Customs documents.

He said, while it is currently only in operation at the CTA headquarters, his administration would like to extend it to transit sheds, wharves and out-stations.

"Computerisation is a must for the future. It is the way of the future, not only for the CTA but also for the Inland Revenue Department and the entire GRA," Marks declared.

While it would cost "a reasonable chunk", "that's the way we have to go," he maintained.

"We cannot only look at it from the standpoint of its cost but as an investment, because the amount of additional revenue that it (ASYCUDA ++) will bring in a short space of time will compensate for the cost," the Commissioner said.

Thorne said ASYCUDA ++ is geared towards better management of Government finances, institutional strengthening of Customs through reform and modernisation and the provision of a reliable source of information on foreign trade.

He expressed optimism that it is part of the procedure towards a "paperless environment", referring to the sometimes numerous documents involved in Customs transactions.

Thorne said UNCTAD has some 20 years of proven international experience in automating Customs operations, with the ASYCUDA system already operational in more than 80 countries worldwide and complying with international requirements, including those of World Customs Organisation (WCO), World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Kyoto.