Re: The new ASYCUDA System at Customs

Friday, February 8, 2019

Dear Editor,

Re: The new ASYCUDA System at Customs

The Guyana Revenue Authority notes the concerns recently expressed by Mr. Manzoor Nadir in the Wednesday, February 6, 2019 edition of three daily newspapers regarding the implementing and monitoring of the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) World (AW). He opined as follows:

  • “importers are facing delays and demurrage while not being able to turn over their merchandise.”
  • there is still a lot of ignorance among importers.
  • the previous system (TRIPS), allowed importers to prepare and submit declarations weeks in advance which gave the importers sufficient time to lodge, process, answer queries and pay taxes for declarations weeks in advance before arrival of the goods.
  • the AW system does not allow importers to lodge declarations unless the Manifest is registered and the Waybills are validated, and that the electronic submission is only made a few days before the arrival of the cargo and after payment, the various lanes assignments would be applied.

The Authority acknowledges Mr. Nadir’s concerns, some of which are genuine in nature and most of which have been earlier explained in the general media. This Press Release will deal with each hereunder, and at the same time re-introduce ASYCUDA World (AW) to the general public and to the benefits to be derived therefrom despite the apparent short-term deficiencies being associated therewith.

1. It is a fact delays will lead to demurrage charges and slower inventory turnover. These are some of the very solutions that will be provided upon the full turn up of the ASYCUDA system. In the first quarter of 2018, in anticipation of the introduction of certain modules of the ASYCUDA system would have led to faster clearing times, shipping agents decreased the period of time for clearing by almost half which in turn led to an increase in demurrage fees. GRA has no jurisdiction over these charges. However, the Authority makes every effort to facilitate faster clearing times. Agreeably during the peak November and December 2018 periods, they were some delays, but without doubt, containers were cleared faster during 2019 than 2018 despite the increase in container cargo. That being said, the GRA also accepts that we do have some internal challenges during this pilot phase which overlapped the peak season. Cognizant of this, the CG intervened in December 2018 to have the wharves cleared to ensure that the merchandise were on the shelves during the peak period. It should be pointed out however that even though the GRA announced the commencement for the submission of the electronic manifest with effect from March 01, 2018, with full compliance by July 2018, this was not achieved until September 01, 2018.

2. As for the lack of knowledge (ignorance is too strong a word) among importers, it must be pointed out that prior to its commencement, the GRA had formed the National Project Team (NPT) which is responsible for building the software from a model to suit the needs of Guyana. This team has so far trained three hundred and eighty-nine (389) external persons including Carrier Agents, Consolidators, Wharfingers, Licensed Customhouse Brokers, Importers, Exporters and Companies, and continues to offer support services to all the external stakeholders as well as the internal staff. The Authority has also informed the general public every step of the way either through press releases, TV and newspaper ads, website announcements and public engagements. Like any new system, there will be many hiccups and shortfalls. However, timely human intervention has mitigated the effect. Agents are slowly getting onboard and the GRA with its “no-one left behind” plan has been assiduously working with all stakeholders to build a robust system that will benefit everyone in the long run. Surely the benefits to be derived will far outweigh the brevity of the present hiccups being faced.

3. Contrary to the popular belief that the TRIPS system allowed importers to submit advance manifests and pay taxes before the arrival of goods, the public needs to be informed that even though envisaged, this module of TRIPS was never fully developed and only partially implemented. Because of this partial implementation, the system encouraged staff to spend lengthy time perusing the submissions documents which ultimately resulted in demurrage charges and profiling being done only until after the vessel arrived.

The submission of the electronic manifest through ASYCUDA now allows for the GRA to conduct profiling before arrival of the vessel and most of the documents are processed and containers released without much Customs intervention. Further, officers will be properly monitored through the system and they were instructed to process declarations without delay, since our Post Clearance Audit Unit (PCAU) is well trained to detect infractions after goods have been released.

The GRA has entered into a program of Trade Facilitation as recommended by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and persons qualifying (trusted traders) would have their documents and cargo released within one to two days. The Piloting of the e-SAD commenced from September 14, 2018 and the NPT has been monitoring the progress. Where there are errors/discrepancies corrections and assistance are provided immediately upon request. It should be noted however, and because of additional controls, that ASYCUDA World does not facilitate processing of e-SAD declarations without a Waybill because of the new controls that are now available in AW that were previously not available in TRIPS.

4. Mr. Nadir’s final comment on the inability to lodge declarations unless the manifests are registered and waybills are validated is correct. This control is integral to the system and allows for reconciliation between manifests, shippers and waybills, hence the reason why the GRA has been advocating that Carrier Agents register the Ship’s Manifest once it leaves the last port. This in turn will allow the importers sufficient time to input and submit their e-SAD declarations and have them processed within a reasonable time frame. Consequently, if these vessels subsequently berth at ports such as Jamaica and Trinidad, the additional containers loaded or off-loaded can be amended in AW.

However, the Carrier Agents (whom GRA has no control over) being accustomed to the old system, have shown some reluctance to register the Manifests when the ship leaves the last port of call, despite GRA’s attempts to have them do so. The Authority only hopes with this response, this state of affairs is now in the public domain and the Carrier agents will comply thereby mitigating this effect on the affected importers and stakeholders.

The Authority is also encouraging importers to submit true and correct invoices, to avoid queries and delays at the level of EPU(CPU). Importers in particular, are advised to contract the services of Licensed Customhouse Brokers who are trained and certified in ASYCUDA World. In addition, Brokers are reminded to save and store their declarations and review them prior to submission into the system thereby minimizing the associated mistakes of the submission since once submitted, the declaration cannot be amended. This will serve to minimize the mistakes of incorrect TIN, Names of Importers, CIF and FOB and Office of Destination/Registration.

The Revenue Authority wishes to reiterate it commitment to facilitating trade and to improve on the various services offered. As we continue to improve the piloting of AW, GRA welcomes these type of constructive criticisms and with the assistance of all stakeholders, we will continue to strive to make this software function to its maximum capabilities for a full roll out in the second quarter of 2019.

Godfrey Statia