Securing the Business Environment: Some Glimpses

Muhammad Qasim Khokhar

The World Customs Organization (WCO) is dedicating 2018 to the security of the business environment, with the slogan “A secure business environment for economic development.” Accordingly, the Model Customs Collectorate of Appraisement-East has followed the spirit of such instruments and initiatives like the revised WCO International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures and the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade or the WCO Security Programme.

As the latter aims at the fight against chemicals that could be used in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and the fight against the trafficking in small arms and light weapons (SALW), and terrorist financing so MCC Appraisement East has worked on Explosive Pre-Cursors especially Sodium Nitrate and Ammonium Nitrate having dual use. While the clearance has been made after a thorough checking of licenses and permissions, efforts have been made that only quantity sufficient to meet the amount of output explosives duly licensed is released . Being a developing country, the licensing authorities like the Inspector of Explosives have limited capacity to map the input/output quantities and thus their quotas are only output based and without time limitation. An effective coordination mechanism is being setup so that quotas are molded into a model easily enforceable at import stage with predictability for trade. Thus these licensing authorities are being requested to issue quota on quarterly or annual basis instead of open ended and with specific quantity of raw materials required. Similarly all consignments of small arms and light weapons (SALW) pending at the ports/terminals are being confiscated. The due process of law has been put into motion after issuing notices under section 82 of the Customs Act ,1969. Experts of Pakistan Ordnance Factory, Wah are currently examining the consignments and same will be handed over to different arms working on anti-smuggling functions like ASO of Custom House, Karachi.

Similarly to obviate any remote chance of terror financing, consignments of Frustrated Cargo are being allowed under section 138 of the Customs Act,1969 only after assurance that remittances have been paid back. Scrutiny for waiver of EIF (Electronic Import Form) has been made more stringent. Consignments of Export-cum-import of eatables whether by humans or animals etc are being allowed under Section 22 of the Customs Act, 1969 after testing from reputed labs like HEJ, University of Karachi in addition to fulfillment of condition of remaining 50% shelf life . All these tools, instruments and initiatives not only enhance Customs’ overall trade-related processes, they also contribute to an increase in both security of health, environment, life and property and trade facilitation.

Similarly for spirit of partnership and cooperation with the trade, access to their sensitive information has been made more structured and secure. The scope of digital User –ID “internal auditor” has been re-visited by limiting its assignment to only officials who are carrying out the core function of auditing. A new role “Assessment Officer –PRV (Post Release Verification)” has been introduced in which access to information is restricted only to the relevant group i.e Chapters of Harmonized Commodity Description & Coding System or Pakistan Customs Tariff (PCT). This will remove any chance of sharing of information like names of suppliers, quantum and frequency of transactions with their competitors. Further, in order to make post release verification/audit more effective, the information of clearance in Green Channels has been made readily available.

By “secure” we mean an environment that is enabling, safe, fair and sustainable, all wrapped in one. So in order to build a fair and sustainable environment, the importation of illegal goods, such as goods that infringe intellectual property rights (IPR) have got a special focus of MCC Appraisement-East. Accordingly, such consignments have been scrutinized properly. Many contraventions in cooperation with Directorate General of Intellectual Property Rights have been framed and forwarded to the Adjudication authorities. These include goods infringing Trademark of Cherry Blossom Shoe Polish ,Mortein Mosquito killer spray, Baygon Insecticide Spray and empty bottles of branded Perfumes. Those who have no such infringements have been released immediately like multi-purpose sealant of Dow Corning etc.

Ensuring safety is also critical. Legitimate businesses require a secure supply chain to prosper. So while speedy clearance is being ensured, sudden impediments are being smoothened in an effective manner. Recently, interim relief granted by the Honorable High Court of Sindh on Regulatory duty has been implemented by creating special cell in each Group with a dedicated Appraiser and Principal Appraiser. The implementation of this decision had very complex strings and was tedious but same has been implemented in a manner with least impact on supply chain of trade and industry.

Currently only National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) collects duty and taxes and trade is facing insecurities as it has to carry/transport Pay Orders/Bank Drafts first to NBP and then pay into the account of Collector of Customs. At times, it has to deposit amounts first in accounts of Clearing Agents which has its own risks. MCC Appraisement East is working with Banks and State Bank of Pakistan in active coordination with Directorate General of Reforms & Automation, Custom House to introduce module of “e-Payments” so that duty and taxes are paid directly from the Accounts of importers into the Account of Collector of Customs. This will also thin out the long queues of tax payers in different branches of NBP in addition to reducing dwell time and securing the business environment by obviating the need of depositing in accounts of Clearing Agents or transportation of Pay Orders/Bank Drafts.

These are some glimpses of an over-all trade friendly and secure architecture being built at MCC Appraisement East. Besides this, we welcome the trade and stakeholders to share their views and input to build  ‘A secure business environment for economic and national development.’

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