Some months ago, a consignment of logs left Guyana, destined for China via Jamaica, and amidst these logs was a quantity of the illicit drug cocaine. As a result of this discovery the C&TA immediately started a regime of hostile treatment for all exporters.
Documentation and processing: the export documentation (shipping Bill) when lodged could have been completed previously within a 48-hour timeline – for example, the signing and stamping of certificates and invoices, including the payment of charges and duty to the cashier. Today this takes two weeks to be completed.
The C&TA has introduced enforcement checks for all shipping bills. This check is a data processing check whereby the data although submitted electronically, is not released for processing and passing until 5 days after submission. The release is also done electronically; however, this is at another location outside the C&TA office (Main St), obviously by other GRA officials.
There is yet another enforcement check; this one, unlike the first, is manual. The exporter on completion of payment must photocopy the shipping bill, certificate and invoice, including the receipt, and lodge the originals and copies with the Enforcement Depart-ment. The documents would be perused and stamped, recorded in a ledger and Enforcement would assign a Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) Officer to examine and scrutinise the actual cargo.
Examination and sealing of cargo: an exporter used to have his cargo examined and sealed at the wharf or airport by officers stationed at those locations. Cargo was also examined and sealed on the premises by Customs Boat House Officers providing extra services.
At the moment all exports must be examine by at least two officers, one from the Examination Section and the other from the DEU. Both sections are understaffed, especially the DEU, so there is even more delays for exports.
Weighing and scanning: scanning is nothing new to exporters in Guyana, as exports leaving via cargo are weighed and scanned at Timehri. However, a scanner is now functioning at the Guyana National Shipping Corporation Bond at Lombard Street, La Penitence, where containerised cargo is scanned before export. An exporter is required to apply using a form known as the Notification for Export (NFE) form, and submit same along with his shipping bill and copies to the Enforcement Department, which would now interview the exporter or his agent and then issue a letter giving a date and time when the containerised cargo must be taken to the scanner for examination. The exporter or his agent must be present during the scanning operation. Once there is a good report the cargo is taken to the wharf for loading onto the vessel.
Finally, my own view is that legitimate business is being frustrated by the C&TA. There are more than 5,000 exporters, including occasional export-ers. The C&TA must focus on improving its services to those taxpayers, instead of treating them like beggars. The Intelligence Section of the C&TA must use its resources to develop a profile of all exporters and the transactions of those who are identified as possibly suspect could be flagged and scrutinised.
The NFE form is just additional paperwork for exporters, because the information requested would have already been given on the shipping bill or declaration. This harassment of exporters and their exports should stop now.
We are sending a copy of this letter to Mr Khurshid Sattaur, Commis-sioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority for any comment he might wish to make.