By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Customs Department yesterday apologised to Abaco’s private sector for difficulties caused by its new system, but warned that previous “short cuts” are now no longer possible.
In a statement to Tribune Business responding to concerns raised by that island’s business community, Bahamas Customs and Excise reassured that issues with its new electronic single window (ESW) platform will “smoothen out” and that it has been working closely to address their concerns.
“The feedback from business stakeholders is most welcomed as we know that with any major change process it takes time to learn the new system and to become comfortable,” Customs said. “Any inconvenience and increase in workload is partially due to the fact that businesses are still learning the system.
“However, some of the short cuts that were allowed by the old system are no longer possible. The Customs Department apologises for any inconvenience to the businesses community. We assure our stakeholders that based on the experience in other islands and in Nassau that operations will smoothen out once everyone becomes familiar with the new system and accustomed to the high standard of compliance that is being expected of everyone, including Customs officers.”
Customs added: “The phased Family Island roll-out has been taking place over the past seven months with Customs moving systematically from island to island, conducting training with businesses and stakeholders and making necessary improvements based on user feedback.
“Inagua, Exuma, Eleuthera and Cat Island are some of the Family Islands that are already operational on the new system. In fact, in Abaco, Customs officers have been stationed there since July 1 to assist in training stakeholders. Customs has even embedded officers within private organisations to provide a personalised training as a way of facilitating businesses in the transition process.”
According to Customs, under the new system all importers will be operating by the same rules and regulations. Processes that used to involve physical Customs officers will now be automated, including payment which will soon be available online in a bid to add convenience and increased efficiency to the process of importing and exporting.
“The new system will have tighter controls and risk management to reduce corruption, and new measures to protect government revenue,” Customs said. “This benefits all taxpayers. The new system will also provide accurate statistical information for more effective policy making and real time information to assist government with budget planning.
“These benefits were simply not available in the old system. We encourage the business community to partner with us as we modernise Customs into a 21st century administration. Customs and the Ministry of Finance are in the final stages of preparation to launch a public education campaign to inform the public about the Bahamas Electronic Single Window, which has been officially named, Click2Clear.”