Officers uneasy, as Customs South over streamlines work of assessment groups

KARACHI: Chief Collector Appraisement South has introduced various measures in order to streamline the work of assessment groups, appraisement collectorates and facilitate trade. However, these measures have created unrest among the assessment staff, as these would increase their workload and responsibilities.

Assessment officers of Customs are already over-burdened with work, which is already being reflected on their lives and health.

An official said Chief Collector Abdul Rasheed Shaeikh was a very honest and well reputed officers and his contribution towards trade-facilitation was exemplary, even sometimes Sheikh preferred trade-facilitation over securing government revenue.

According to a circular, the assistant/deputy collectors will attend to assessment reviews and conduct hearings only during 10:00 am to 12:00 pm in the morning session and then during 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm in the afternoon session.

The customs officers (AOs, PAs, ACs, DCs) will not be allowed to contact the clearing agents or traders directly or indirectly until the GD is out of charge and gate-out except through official/formal channel. The circular says that breach of these instructions shall constitute an act of or attempt to malpractice and extortion.

An official said eliminating the contact between officials with agents/importers was a positive step and would discourage ‘speed money’ culture in a computerized environment wherein all the details are available in the system. However, the Chief Collector Appraisement South was keeping his eyes shut on various cases of mis-declaration and under-invoicing in the name of trade-facilitation, which was causing huge revenue loss to the exchequer.

It was known that on the directives of Chief Collector Abdul Rasheed Shaikh, a number of contravention reports were withdrawn and in many cases the contraventions were not even prepared, due to which the exchequer was deprived of revenue in terms of fine and penalty. Had this unscrupulous agents/traders were penalized, it would have served an example for others.

Furthermore, the use of personal cell phones by the AOs/PAs shall not be allowed during office hours. For making or receiving important or emergency calls, a dedicated phone will be available in a room arranged by the headquarter. The appraising officers have termed this order a violation of basic human rights and condemned Chief Collector, who is known for undue interfering in the work of collectorates.

According to the law, licensed clearing agents cannot attend hearing in GDs filed on self-basis by the importer, therefore ACs/DCs shall not entertain any unauthorized person for hearing.

Moreover, PA is required to represent the assessment group at Tribunals, which takes a lot of time and importers have to wait for hours. Moreover, when PAs get back from Tribunals, they are over-burdened with work leaving room for mistakes and blunders.  An official said judgments were being sold at Tribunal and Adjudication and representation of the PA at Tribunal was only a waste of time.

Sources said, Abdul Rasheed Sheikh had gone way out of line and even created a rift between collectorates in protecting his brother’s firm M/s E-Movers. E-Movers has been found involved in a series of wrong doings including replacement of transshipment cargo (TP), and yet Sheikh was tightening the noose around the necks of officers/officials instead of focusing on unscrupulous traders/importers.

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