NIB card 'shortage' hits Andros customs move


Tribune Business Editor


A "shortage" of National Insurance Board (NIB) smart cards has compounded South Andros' challenges in switching to Customs' new Electronic Single Window system, it was disclosed yesterday.

Rochelle King-Trabulsy, a Mangrove Cay-based customs broker, told Tribune Business that import shipments to the area became "backlogged" because many businesses and residents were unaware that Customs had set an early February date to transition to its digital goods clearance system.

While persons have been adjusting to, and registering with, the Electronic Single Window (ESW), Ms King-Trabulsy said the transition had been further complicated by difficulties in obtaining NIB smart card renewals.

She explained that valid NIB smart cards were a must if importers were to complete the ESW registration process, but delays in obtaining renewals had resulted in many being hit with Customs' storage fees because goods have not been cleared within five days.

Ms King-Trabulsy added that the new system, which is quick to reject incorrect information, had also required air and freight shipping firms - as well as brokers - to tighten up on ensuring details for all shipments are correct.

She revealed that, as of March 1, 2020, the Customs department will charge a sum equivalent to 25 percent of the total tax due on any shipment where the entry has to be changed after being placed in the system.

Describing this as "no joke", Ms King-Trabulsy added that Bahamian business owners and individuals were also having to come to grips with the fact they can now only use one name - which has to be their given one, rather than their "street" or "nickname" - in the ESW, which is known as Click2Clear, when clearing imported goods.

"We've had so many scenarios that we've had to deal with in the past three weeks to help people out since early February," she told Tribune Business. "I knew that prior to Click2Clear the residents did not know it was coming out at the day it did. A lot of people had stuff coming in that was backlogged because they were not aware Customs was going to Click2Clear.

"Persons have been coming in to produce documents and get their stuff cleared. Some of the delays are the shipping companies getting used to the Click2Clear system themselves."

Picewell Forbes, the area's MP, complained last week in the House of Assembly that there was a backlog of goods waiting to be cleared at his constituency's ports of entry. He urged the government to "get over that hurdle as soon as possible", calling on it to act "post haste" to move the process along.

However, Ms King-Trabulsy, who is also proprietor of Mangrove Cay-based SeaChel's, said the difficulties associated with the Click2Clear transition had seemingly been compounded by problems impacting the renewal and issuance of NIB smart cards.

A valid card is required for persons to successfully register with Click2Clear, but she added: "We heard that the NIB office in Nassau is out of cards, and has not been able to issue new cards. People have had to come in to have a decal placed on their existing card showing it is valid for another year.

"The process takes longer. You have to go to Nassau, get the card and then register for Click2Clear. The local NIB office is unable to do that. They have to wait on Nassau and send the information to Nassau. Persons who cannot travel have to wait for Nassau to produce a letter, send an e-mail and produce the decal sticker.

"Some people have been frustrated because NIB is unable to facilitate them right away to do what they need to do in terms of registering with Click2Clear. They cannot do it without that. Absolutely not. They need a valid NIB card to be able to do that. And after five days Customs charges a storage fee."

The existence of an NIB smart card "shortage" could not be confirmed. Brensil Rolle, the Cabinet minister with responsibility for NIB, could not be reached for comment before press time last night.

Dr Nicola Virgill-Rolle, the social security scheme's director, was said to be in meetings when Tribune Business called, while Yvette Sands, NIB's assistant director for business development and policy planning, said she would investigate the matter but never called back.

Still, Ms King-Trabulsy added: "Persons are moving forward to register, do what they have to do, and have been able to go through and get their products and stuff cleared. It's a learning process for the broker and the shipper.

"In the old system you were able to get a manifest number straight away, but now you have to wait on the shipper. Then you have to call them up and say I need this.... With the shippers and some of the parties, they're accustomed to sometimes sending it in their personal name and sometimes in their business's name.

"One person I know had to go to all of their US suppliers and have shipments put in their business's name, not their name. They have to make sure the name that goes into Customs' system lines up with the manifest."

Mistakes may soon be costly. Ms King-Trabulsy said: "As of March 1, they're going to be charging 25 percent on amendments to entries; 25 percent of what you're required to pay. If you have to make an amendment to a name, you have to pay 25 percent of the VAT and duty due.

"It's not a joke. You have to be careful what you're putting in so it doesn't cost clients extra. We have to make sure it's done in this name, not that name. And that has to be the name on the NIB card, not the name you go by, or Customs will see this as a totally different person."


ThisIsOurs 3 years, 6 months ago

But I taut NIB just said a week ago the rumour about card shortages was false. They just realized the expired cards were in great condition so they just added a renewal sticker on to them


Porcupine 3 years, 6 months ago

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Is Customs really charging storage fees right now, knowing that there are problems on ALL sides? Was there an educational and outreach plan for Customs, the Brokers, the Customers such that everyone knew the dates of rollout, new procedures, etc. in South Andros? Was there an effort by the districts MP to smoothly facilitate the transition, talking with all involved? Do we wonder why there is such confusion when there is no communication from the top to the bottom? And then penalize people for not being with the "program"? Sounds like there was little done to assist everyone, as in, "the people" by their government and Customs. Are we surprised?


Jonahbay 3 years, 6 months ago

I "renewed" my card the other day and got a decal stuck to it. My thing is, the amount of money spent on implementing these cards only to make them good for 1 year???????? It makes absolutely NO sense and NIB has realised it too. Just a year too late and many more dollars at our expense. The cards should be good for 5 years and a replacement fee charged if lost etc. We cannot keep making these errors.


ThisIsOurs 3 years, 6 months ago

"revealed that, as of March 1, 2020, the Customs department will charge a sum equivalent to 25 percent of the total tax due on any shipment where the entry has to be changed after being placed in the system."

I'm convinced the govt looks for traps where they can catch the majority of people for the introduction of onerous fees. 25% is a beep load of money, because theyre going to add the value and shipping and insuance then charge vat on top of it. Here it is a system that they know has all kinds of gatcha! hiccups due to bad implementation and they've found a way to blame the customer for a poorly rolled out mandatory system. you can't make this up.

Then they tell you "no new taxes", everything is imported!!!!, Imagine the number of retailers who will be upping their prices.. more inflation...


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