0

Customs chief placed on leave in shake-up

• ‘A number of matters’ behind leader change

• Agency faced probe on ‘excessive’ allowances

• Numerous appointments at revenue agency

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Davis administration has initiated a shake-up of the Customs Department that has resulted in its comptroller, Dr Geannine Moss, being placed on administrative leave.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister, who has ultimate responsibility for Customs as minister of finance, confirmed that multiple personnel changes have occurred among top management when approached by Tribune Business yesterday. They declined to explain why Dr Moss had been placed on leave other than to say “a number of matters” were involved.

“She is on administrative leave,” the spokesman confirmed. “The acting comptroller is Roosevelt Bethel. The financial secretary [Simon Wilson] is not going to disclose why she is on leave because it’s a human resources matter, but there are a number of matters.” They declined to comment further.

Dr Moss could not be reached for comment, and nor could Mr Wilson or Senator Michael Halkitis, minister of economic affairs. However, Customs becomes the latest agency to follow the likes of the Department of Corrections in seeking major leadership changes following the September 16 general election.

It was indicated to this newspaper that, having been placed on leave, Dr Moss is unlikely to return to the comptroller post. Highly-placed Tribune Business sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said her response to a major internal government probe into Customs had been awaited when the Minnis administration was voted out of office.

This newspaper was told that an audit had been initiated into “allowances” that some Customs officers were claiming, and being approved for, when they went out to inspect containers and other imported goods on-site. It is understood that Ministry of Finance officials felt some of these “allowance” amounts were “abusive”, excessive and “hard to justify”.

“There was an audit into a particular allowance that Customs officers get when they look at containers on-site,” one source said, describing it as akin to a “transportation allowance” to cover auto fuel and other costs. “There’s a few that she [Dr Moss] signed-off on that appeared excessive. It was really difficult to justify the amount being paid.”

While there is nothing to suggest that Dr Moss did anything wrong, Tribune Business was told that the audit report and its findings were completed and passed to an “audit committee” within the Ministry of Finance prior to last year’s general election. The comptroller’s response to questions put to her by the committee was anticipated when the administrations changed.

Customs management looks significantly different as a result of various changes and promotions that have now taken place. Ralph Munroe and Ken Flowers now hold the posts of deputy comptroller, the latter having responsibility for Freeport.

And, appointed to the posts of assistant comptroller, are Cloretta Gomez, Theodore Wright, Harold Fowler and Celeste Cox, sources told this newspaper.

Comments

tribanon 11 months ago

This whole system of customs officers inspecting containers delivered to the site of the importer is corrupt to the hilt. It's all about unnecessarily milking the public treasury of allowances and over-time compensation. Customs officers are being incentivized not to work during normal working hours and they happily oblige.

This foolishness has been going on for decades. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Big importers have grown accustomed to dishing out untraceable wads of cash to their favourite customs officers for turning their eyes the other way during on-site inspections of containers choc-a-bloc full of undeclared expensive goods.

It's just one more example of why the small man is being taxed to death.....he's always being made to pay for the big time corruption of others who can afford to pay but do pay their customs duties.

3

Dawes 11 months ago

Probably not even a blind eye, just to get the customs officer to do their job.

1

DreamerX 11 months ago

I've even heard through conversations at bars with persons working in the import business that workers were making deals with customs officers to split items that "fall off the back of the truck" or item unlikely/unable to be weighed by the receiver for net item received which they ordered by weight.

I think there should be a standard inspection done by Commercial Crimes to inspect the vehicles of customs officers who oversee any such shipments in a random spot check. I guess this could just be a third person in the stealing ring but Idk. There is also common practice for customs officers to allow freight forwarders or importers to skirt taxes for their personal consumption to receive free shipping on their orders, both of which do not appear for customs declarations and taxation. This is more difficult as Customs has the authority wholly, so how do you make them inspect themselves without adding a few more hands taking from the pot...

0

John 11 months ago

When a high ranking official is put on administrative leave the action suggests some wrong doing, if not corruption. And, of course, there have always being talks of the ‘untouchables’ on the customs list that import goods and do not follow the normal channel to have their goods cleared. They are hardly ever examined and the general talk is even if an officer attempts to carry out his duties, his efforts are thwarted with a simple phone call or text. As one officer explained it, ‘The problems are many. Containers come in with goods valuing hundreds of thousands of dollars.Then you have an officer making just a small fraction of the duty that is to be collected on these containers. So when the opportunity presents itself, what will most officers do?’ And some believe the problem is even greater than that levy of officers. Organized corruption by ‘the higher ups.’ One importer of a certain product says he is the agent/distributor for certain brands of products. But more than half the product in the market does not come through his company. In face he doesn’t know many of the people and businesses that sell the products And in most instances their prices are below what he and his legitimate customers prices are. So how do you fix the problem. It may be nothing to do with the current shake up in customs that some believe is politically motivated.

1

John 11 months ago

When a high ranking official is put on administrative leave the action suggests some wrong doing, if not corruption. And, of course, there have always being talks of the ‘untouchables’ on the customs list that import goods and do not follow the normal channel to have their goods cleared. They are hardly ever examined and the general talk is even if an officer attempts to carry out his duties, his efforts are thwarted with a simple phone call or text. As one officer explained it, ‘The problems are many. Containers come in with goods valuing hundreds of thousands of dollars.Then you have an officer making just a small fraction of the duty that is to be collected on these containers. So when the opportunity presents itself, what will most officers do?’ And some believe the problem is even greater than that levy of officers. Organized corruption by ‘the higher ups.’ One importer of a certain product says he is the agent/distributor for certain brands of products. But more than half the product in the market does not come through his company. In face he doesn’t know many of the people and businesses that sell the products And in most instances their prices are below what he and his legitimate customers prices are. So how do you fix the problem. It may be nothing to do with the current shake up in customs that some believe is politically motivated.

0

Sign in to comment