Gaborone: The Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry, Vincent Seretse has said that Customs administrations need restructuring and adapt modern technological tools to curb unfair trade practices and competition. Speaking at the World Customs Organisation (WCO) meeting in Gaborone last week, Seretse said customs administrations should introduce effective controls of cargo transported by road, rail, air and waterways to secure supply chain of goods as well as to increase their fight against organised crime by tackling the lucrative white-collar crime.
"This is a challenge for customs administrations to contend with, primarily because the incentives for perpetrators to commit revenue-related fraud are great," he said.
Seretse said that customs administrators cannot respond to the need to be at the forefront of providing security to their countries using the same administrative structures and business plans which were built in the main for fiscal purposes and now need restructuring to respond to the challenge.
"On the operational front, customs administrations in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region and elsewhere have the challenge of balancing security with trade facilitation to meet the needs of all stakeholders," he said.
However, the challenge facing customs administrations in the region in this regard is how to ensure the unimpeded flow of trade while maintaining effective control. This is different from the past where control was basically physical, which took a lot of time, effort and cost.
Seretse emphasised that nowadays, modern working methods should be applied to simplify and focus controls where they are needed. " In particular, computerisation, post-import and audit controls and the use of risk analysis are techniques that are most useful in that respect," he noted.
WCO conducted diagnostic missions to all the countries in the region in 2006 and 2007 under the framework of standards to facilitate and simplify global trade to assess their readiness to implement the established WCO standards. These studies brought to the fore a lot of similarities in the prevalence, nature and pattern of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in customs administrations.
As a result, the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries in collaboration with the WCO secretariat have signed an agreement to implement the SACU-WCO Customs Development Programme aimed at standardising and simplifying customs processes across the entire SACU sub region based on the WCO best practice guidelines.
Seretse explained that with the technical assistance offered by WCO to the programme effective and modern customs administrations would emerge. "It is our hope and belief in SACU that the programme will positively revolutionise the way we conduct customs business in the region. With the WCO offering technical assistance to he programme, there is no doubt that by the end of the programme we will boast of very effective, efficient and modern Customs Administrations," he said.
Botswana is implementing some of the major recommendations arising from the diagnostic study such as the deployment container x-ray scanners at major border posts, the establishment of a customs-business forum and the use of post clearance audits in customs, as a risk management tool.