Ministry of Finance say online portal requires ‘cultural change’
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The new Customs online portal is being “stubbornly resisted by some” workers, according to the Ministry of Finance.
The new Click2Clear system was announced in late August and touted as a means to make Customs processing more transparent, efficient and affordable, while reducing leakage of duty and revenue collection.
Amid widely publicized complaints for not being user friendly or efficient, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement the ongoing implementation required a “cultural change”.
To date, the system has processed about 93,600 declarations, of which only 5 per cent have failed.
The MOF statement read: “The ongoing implementation of Click2Clear, the new Customs online portal, is requiring cultural change within the Department of Customs and the import industry that is being stubbornly resisted by some.
“Leadership with the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Customs say they will not tolerate any efforts to undermine the implementation of the new system by those who want to return to the past.”
Acting Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson explained at a recent stakeholder meeting with industry professionals, the “days of friend and favor are over at the border”.
“We have advised Customs brokers to tell their clients a lot of things people were casually able to get away with will not be tolerated anymore. In fact, they will be detected automatically,” Johnson said.
“The Click2Clear system uses artificial intelligence and with each new declaration submitted the system is learning. The best way to do things moving forward is the right way.
He added: “While we can forgive mistakes, we will not forgive fraud.”
Government officials say that by and large, industry stakeholders have been using the system effectively and together they have worked to resolve issues when they arise.
“We are trying to grapple with a cultural change amongst customs officers and brokers,” Johnson said.
“Brokers that once depended on knowing a Customs officer who they could call and get an override or have something overlooked, or run through an informal channel no longer have that facility.
He added: ‘This is creating some resistance all around. We think the public can appreciate the importance of us fighting this battle to bring about cultural change internally and externally.”
While many users experienced a learning curve with adopting the new system, most agree that the old system was “extremely basic” and allowed for many loopholes.
The new system requires industry professionals to operate at a higher level of proficiency, according to MOF.
Antoinette Higgs, a licensed broker with A&S Customs Brokerage said: “The new system requires more information, but that is a good thing, because it is safer. Before you could put anything in ECAS and get away with it. It was basically anything goes.”
Higgs said: “In the new system, everything has to be correct: the tariff headings, concession codes, the weights. You have to double check your work and make sure it is correct before you send it.”
Stephen Major Jr, in-house broker for Xtra Value said his overall experience with the new system has been positive.
“Like any new thing you have to adjust and get used to it. Some people are rioting because they do not know how to work the new system,” said Major.
“Everything can’t stay the same all your life and Customs can’t just stay with the old system. It’s just like the self-checkout in the US. Some people like it; some people don’t. Things will settle down eventually.”
Major continued: “The system makes sense. It automates a lot of the steps and cuts back on opportunities for tipping and bribery, and I think Customs is right to want to do that. People could get away with a lot before; if they knew people in Customs they could get a bly on different things. Because of the new system it don’t work like that no more.”
While he recommended that Customs strengthen the processing time involved in the risk-management aspect of the system, he said that the benefits of everything being automated and online are clear.
Major said: “I like that I get everything on my phone. I can send my customers to pay even if I’m on the road doing something. And I’ll get an email notification when the payment is made. Before, I had to physically be there with my client to process all of the paperwork.”
Suzanne Watson, an in-house broker with AID, also attested to the benefit of the automated processes.
Watson said: “The new system streamlines the process and takes out the human component. I like the ability to track the process flow because everything is automated now.
“I can see where my goods are at every stage of the process. It gives me the end user greater visibility. Business license verification is integrated into the system, so we don’t have to upload our business license with every declaration. I find it to be highly user friendly. Overall, imports have been flowing pretty smooth.”