Thank you for permitting me the opportunity to respond to the letter penned by Mr R Thompson which appeared in the Stabroek News of June 22 under the caption ‘Exporters experiencing inordinate delays.’
In his letter, Mr Thompson stated that the Customs and Trade Administration (C&TA) had started a regime of hostile treatment towards all exporters due to a recent drug bust in Jamaica. This is indeed baseless, speculative and the letter writer would seem to be rather inclined to embarrass the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), since the rest of the letter is replete with innuendoes and misinformation.
Editor, let me state at the very inception that you are once again treading on dangerous ground in allowing such misinformation to be published by someone whom you not only readily accept as a bona fide individual, but allow to spew the most vile, obnoxious and disparaging statements which are capable of doing significant damage to the morale and sensibility of the hard-working staff of the GRA, much less the image of the entity. Let me add at this point in time of my response, that I do not intend to favour you with any more responses to the ignorant nonsense that you allow to be published in your letters column and I am particularly referring to a letter published in your edition of Thursday, June 23 under the caption ‘What is the rationale behind the bureaucratic nonsense at the GRA?’ The tone and general tenor of this letter are highly questionable, and I would rather withhold my uncomplimentary statements, lest you withhold publication of this response or edit it, in your defence of these types of persons, as you are accustomed to do.
As I was forced to do on Monday June 20, in order to demonstrate that a lot of what you report is anecdotal, a press briefing was conducted at the site at which Motor Vehicle Licences are being sold. During the briefing, an actual case was used to make the point that the selling of a licence can take from between three to five minutes, provided that the motorist has all the relevant documents in his possession.
Rather than replying to these allegations of wrongdoing and sabotage by my officers, I would allow a reporter from your newspaper to visit the relevant sections of the GRA, so that a walk through of the system can be conducted. This would prove the point that the time it takes to process an exporter’s containerised cargo has been considerably reduced over the past two years.
Lodgement and processing of declarations: I can assure you that your reporter will certainly be convinced long before the end of his visit that the lodgement and processing of export declarations including clearing from enforcement checks, takes approximately forty-eight hours provided that the documentation that is furnished by the exporter is in order. It is hoped that your reporter will be intelligent enough to decipher for himself that the GRA has no control over when the exporter decides to pay after the processed declaration is delivered.
The claim by Mr Thompson that declarations are not released for processing and passing until five days after submission would certainly be discredited and so would be his erroneous statement that the process from start to finish takes more than two weeks. I must hasten to add, however, that since we are operating a risk management system, it is quite possible that your reporter will find that while more than 85% to 90% of exports are released without any checks (enforcement or otherwise), a few will be required to be scanned or physically examined by our crew of examiners, because of the level of risk that the system of profiling may have determined the individual exporter or export is to be subject to. It is not unusual, therefore, that your Mr Thompson may have been singled out by the system for ‘special treatment,’ and hence, the delay he experienced. This however, only happens under exceptional circumstances for reasons that are justifiable, and let me hasten to point out that this is not the norm.
Editor, you should be enlightened that the activities being performed by the Drugs Examination Unit (DEU) and Goods Examination Unit (GEU) are not new procedures but were simply transferred to these new units from C&TA and the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), the latter of which you are familiar with. Furthermore, presenting the declaration to the DEU takes less than one day, while the scanning process takes fifteen to thirty minutes at the scanner site.
Editor, it is patently evident that your letter writer is not aware that during last year the GRA had implemented a number of additional measures to simplify the process and add transparency in its procedures. To this end, exporters can track the status of their declarations and use the information to seek clarification and guidance where needed.
Furthermore meetings have been held with representatives of the Shipping Association, Private Sector Commission, and the Customs Brokers Association, etc, to address their concerns.
The resistance to change by some persons is expected since the new system does not tolerate lack of transparency and accountability, or the exporter having in his possession the Customs seals. Based on the facts I have outlined above, and the multitude of the statistics that are readily available from the MIS module of the Total Revenue Integrated Processing System (TRIPS) your reporter will attest to the track record of the average time it takes to process both imports and exports.
The GRA would not compromise or be daunted in its efforts to provide quality services to all its stakeholders nor in executing its mandate to protect the society from the threats of transnational organized crime and terrorism.