More than 1,600 businesses are now using Customs’ “long overdue” online clearance platform that will create a “one-stop shop” for all users once its roll-out is fully completed.
The Ministry of Finance said the ten-phase implementation will help eliminate the manual, paper-based system that Customs has relied on for decades while also improving the speed and ease of conducting cross-border commerce. It is also designed to crack down on tax evasion, corruption, fraud and smuggling, while also producing greater efficiency.
The implementation phases include a business management portal; an online payment platform; a new system for filing declarations online; and a completely integrated system for the online processing of Customs-related permits and licences with other government agencies. Each component is at a different stage of implementation, with many overlapping.
“There is no question this is a massive undertaking and it is long overdue,” said K Peter Turnquest, deputy prime minister and minister of finance.
“We are still in the early stages of implementation, but when the full system is operational it will significantly improve the speed of doing business, minimise the influence of corruption, and bring greater security and transparency to the process of importing and exporting goods in The Bahamas.”
The roll-out started in late 2018 with New Providence-based air cargo carriers. As at February 2019, more than 1,600 businesses including couriers, brokers and other business importers had transitioned to the new system.
Customs started a pilot test in Eleuthera in early 2019 as part of its phased Family Island roll-out for air and sea ports. It is now implementing lessons learned and ensuring internal readiness. In the next few months, Customs will continue the phased roll-out, supported by a public education campaign.
“Very soon we will formally introduce the public to the new online system, Click2Clear, which we are building into a one-stop-shop for all Customs clearance processes. We are very confident that Click2Clear will take Customs into the future, and deliver more speed, functionality and efficiency,” said Mr Turnquest.
“Just one generation ago, Customs was using a completely manual, paper-based system. In the world of technology, that is light years away. We have an older digital system right now that is no longer fit for purpose, so we are transitioning to an internationally compatible platform that brings all of Customs’ trade process together in one convenient online location.”
The Ministry of Finance said that when Click2Clear is fully implemented, the benefits will include:
• Paperless Customs processing
• Automated entry checking
• End-to-end online processing and tracking, with no need for companies and brokers to run from office to office
• Tighter controls and risk management to reduce corruption and fraud
• More accountability to protect government revenue
• More statistical information for effective policy making.
“We want the full system up and running as soon as possible, but a massive change process cannot be implemented overnight. We want to minimise the inconvenience to the general public and ensure that businesses continue to operate effectively during the transition phase,” said Mr Turnquest.
“This system is going to impact every importer, including individuals who purchase items online, so we plan to take the time to ensure everyone is properly informed. As we bring more of the system online, we will experience more of the benefits.
“Overall we know there is agreement about the need for Customs to modernise, and I congratulate Comptroller Moss and her team on the strides they have made and continue to make. In the end, their efforts to implement Click2Clear and transform Customs will benefit the business community, Bahamian consumers and the nation on the whole.”