Verbal instructions to slow down import clearance taking toll on clearing agents, importers
KARACHI: The clearance of imported consignments particularly of scrap (all kinds) is subjected to a well planned designed technical delay causing huge loss to importers and taking toll on clearing agents since over a month.
The examination staff of Pakistan Customs posted at Port Muhammad Bin Qasim and its managed DP World, MTO etc allegedly on verbal orders from hierarchy and superior officers are delaying the entire process of clearance.However, the officials said the delay in clearance was due to shortage of staff adding there were no instructions whatsoever to delay the clearance.
The examination staff used to examine 20 containers per day previously but since a month, only 5 containers are put to physical examination in a day. The examination was reported on the same day but now it takes minimum of two days and such delay is in-explained as examination report is readied as soon as examination is completed and reporting it remains a matter of few minutes.
This delay in turn is resulting in increasing number of GD's filed and pending requests for grounding of imported cargo is increasing at an alarming rate. The custom authorities have posted a single examiner at MTO where the number of consignments to be examined are about 50/day besides loose cargo. The lethargic attitude and inefficiency of the custom examiner at MTO is worrisome and detrimental to the interests of genuine importers and clearing agents.
The second aspect is of objectionable, insulting rather derogatory attitude of the custom officials who are treating and behaving as if they are dealing with smugglers and Thugs. The target of this increasingly intolerable behavior are the importers and clearing agents who have imported scrap of different kinds.
Despite 100 percent physical examination, scrap cargo consignments are dealt with unnecessary suspicion as custom official believe that every importer of scrap is misdeclaring the items imported and attempting to evade duty and taxes. The customs officials are denying examination under section 79 (1) of the Customs Act 1969 and as a result the importer/ clearing agents are exposed to imposition of penalty under section 82 of Customs Act.
The net impact is that a container which used to take 3-4 days in pre budget days is now cleared after two weeks and that too after extra efforts by a clearing agent.
The clearance is further delay due to slow down by Laboratory staff who are also issuing laboratory reports in respect of imported items after in-ordinate delay and upon asking simply tells an agent or importer that they have been asked to delay the process.
On the face of it , the delay was designed and caused on the specific but verbal orders of the superior custom officers probably to achieve the target given by the Federal government to "contract imports" without realization that lesser imports would harm our local manufacturing sector dependent on import.
The net impact of the designed delay is that clearing agents and importers are facing humiliating, derogatory attitude at the hands of custom officials and terminal operators. Besides facing unnecessary hurdles, they are also suffering from undue ever increasing demurrage and other charges besides payment of duty and taxes due.
The situation stated above has given rise to an unfriendly business environment which is not only taking toll on importers and custom clearing agents but in long run will affect the entire import regime undermining manufacturing sector.