Please allow me some space to highlight the frustrations of the new Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) system that was introduced in December by GRA. While the intent of the system is good, its implementation and monitoring are sadly lacking. Importers are facing delays and demurrage while not being able to turn over their merchandise.
First, without sufficient and necessary education, the system was introduced during the height of the peak season as people were clearing goods. There still is a lot of ignorance, among importers about the system and that is equally matched by the level of arrogance by the GRA bosses.
Secondly is the requirement for a manifest number and manifest validation. Before ASYCUDA, an importer could have filed his documents with GRA a week before the ship arrived. That gave the importer sufficient time to have these documents lodged, processed to deal with any queries and finalise the payment of duty and vat. As soon as the ship arrived that importer could then clear the goods. The new system requires that the importer obtain the manifest number, which is only available a day or two before the ship arrives. Then there is a manifest validation which is only available when the ship actually arrives. Only then can the documents be submitted online. When they are submitted then the flags come up. These flags could be documentation, assessment or post-audit. Thus the goods are here while the documents are then being processed. Herein lies the frustration.
GRA has not been listening. While the ASYCUDA system allows for online and immediate processing, the issue comes when the flags are raised. What is needed is for the system to allow the ASYCUDA to accept the filing without validation thus, giving the importer a couple of days before the ship arrives so as to clarify queries.
In the interest of an improvement in the doing business, I urge GRA to seriously consider listening to the brokers and importers.