Assessment groups defy Chief collector’s verbal instructions to observe leniency

KARACHI: Extreme confusion prevails within Customs Appraisement South as Chief Collector Abdul Rasheed Sheikh has reportedly issued verbal instructions barring the assessment staff from calling documents and referring consignments for examination.

Chief Collector held a meeting with senior officers of MCC Appraisement East, MCC Appraisement West and MCC Port Qasim a few days back and passed on verbal instructions that 90 percent of the consignments be processed and cleared without examination and even without calling documents as required by Import Policy Order.

Subsequently, assessment officers are pressurized by supervisory officers to refrain from calling documents and refrain from sending GDs for examination.

It is a good step in the sense that assessment officers in the name of document calling blackmail the importers. Some say it will curb corruption as the interaction between the officials and traders would be eliminated while some officers are of the view that this would result in revenue evasion in the form of under-invoicing and mis-declaration as well as misuse of concessionary SROs.

Assessment staff is of the view that the Chief Collector was pursuing some hidden agenda and it would facilitate certain unscrupulous elements. It is said that Finance Minister was faced with his own problems so Chief collector is under influence of some other political figure and was being used.

Explanation memo served include Appraising Officers Abdul Waheed, Ali Murad, Asma Batool, Ilyas Gichki, Kiran Noor, Myra Gulraiz, Mohammad Sagheer, Nisar Ahmed, Noor Akbar Mehar, Rashid Ali for increased dwell time. Officials said it was surprising that explanation memos were issued for increased dwell time on clearing the GDs. Explanation memos mutilate the record of officials, which may warrant disciplinary action against them. Over 100 memos have been issued in the past one week.

Sources said these were all verbal orders and nothing was issued in writing. It is advised that if mandatory documents are not filed by the importer, there should be made a contravention. However, assessment officers are being issued explanation memos for increased dwell time. Such memos are being issued to officials that has created an environment of fear within the appraisement south.

Assessment officers have refused to follow these orders. Officials are of the view that the practice would result in cases against Customs officials such as inspectors and assessment officers. It may be mentioned here that quite recently NAB has summoned 40 officials for hearing in transshipment cargo replacement case while the senior officers were spared despite the fact that officials were only following orders of the supervisory officers.

Customs implements various laws and orders of various departments and agencies at import stage. However, Abdul Rasheed Sheikh who has been exposed as the facilitator of unscrupulous elements has allegedly destroyed the system and statutory orders were not being implements in true spirit at import stage, which has put the country at risk of revenue evasion, inflow of hazardous elements as well as terrorism.

Assessment staff if of the view that they did not want to be escape goats for the corruption of senior officers and they would only follow instructions issued in written.

In other case, assessment officials say all imports should be through green channel and the assessment staff would monitor the import flow through post release verification (PRV).

The assessment groups have initiated a coordination campaign and they are all convinced that mandatory documents would be called wherever required regardless of the explanation memos.

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