More authority to Customs Officers
Reflecting the growing impact of globalization on the island, Barbados is updating Customs procedures to facilitate the speedier movement of goods in and out of the island in conformity with regulations set by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In pursuit of this objective, the Senate today considered an amendment to the 1962 Customs Act authorizing the Comptroller of Customs and his agents to undertake audits of goods after they had been released to importers, instead of the traditional 100 per cent examination at the port of entry before release.
Introducing the bill, acting Leader of Government Business, Minister of Labour Senator Esther Byer, explained that post clearance audits were carried out subsequent to the release of cargo from the custody of the Customs and Excise Department.
She further explained that these audits allow officers of the Customs and Excise Department to change their approach from a purely transaction-based control, to a more comprehensive company-oriented control approach.
“Under this new approach, Customs officers can do not just an audit of a particular transaction, but they can actually look at imports and exports undertaken over a period of time,” she said.
“This also allows them to move cargo more freely once there are no red flags.”
She went on: “The importer can clear the goods with the understanding that at some point in the future, an officer or someone delegated by the Comptroller of Customs will come to that organization and get the information that is necessary in order to carry out the audit. Importers can recover duties that were over-paid or pay duties that were under-paid.”
Byer explained that it was the traditional practice of Customs to control goods on arrival at the port of entry and the importer or his agent would have to present the declaration to the Customs office. She pointed out that this process could take several days or even longer until the necessary checks were carried out and the duties and taxes paid.
Explaining the reason for the amendment to the 1962 Customs Act at this time, Byer said: “With all that is happening in the international arena, an area that Barbados has signed on to is trade facilitation. An important aspect of trade facilitation is how quickly a country can move its goods through the ports of entry or exit.”
She added: “In order to comply with the requirements of international trade, there have been changes over time in the Customs and Excise Department. They have simplified procedures and moved from a 100 per cent examination to a risk management procedure. This change would allow Customs to release a vast majority of shipments and then retain only those shipments with “red flags”.
Byer stressed that while the amendment gives Customs Officers authority to enter people’s premises either during the day or night, they were forbidden from disclosing any confidential information without the permission of the Minister of Finance.