New bor­der sys­tem will come good - LRA

Lesotho Times - - Business - Retha­bile Pitso

THE Le­sotho Rev­enue Au­thor­ity (LRA) has called on traders us­ing the Maseru Bridge bor­der post to ex­er­cise pa­tience amid chal­lenges in the rolling out of the Asy­cuda cus­toms bor­der con­trol sys­tem.

This was said by LRA Chief Plan­ning and Mod­erni­sa­tion Of­fi­cer Idia Pe­nane dur­ing a media brief­ing on Tues­day in Maseru. She said it had come to the tax au­thor­ity’s at­ten­tion that there were many de­lays in clear­ing goods fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the Asy­cuda World Sys­tem at the bor­der post,.

The Asy­cuda World Sys­tem is a com­puter-based pro­gramme for ad­min­is­ter­ing cus­toms sys­tems. It was pi­loted in Le­sotho last Au­gust at Ma­put­soe bor­der post as part of the LRA’S broader Cus­toms Mod­erni­sa­tion Pro­gramme meant to sim­plify the clear­ing pro­cesses and re­duc­ing the costs of do­ing busi­ness at the bor­der.

The sys­tem, which also en­tails non-in­tru­sive meth­ods of in­spec­tions such as the use of X-ray to scan goods and bag­gage at both the bor­der and air­port, was launched in Maseru in Au­gust.

Ms Pe­nane said the au­to­ma­tion of cus­toms sys­tems was meant to make it eas­ier for the coun­try to de­ter­mine the value of its ex­ports and im­ports. It would also en­able a faster clear­ing cy­cle with online pre-clear­ance which would re­duce the time spent at the borders by traders and their goods.

“The LRA in­tro­duced the au­to­ma­tion process as part of an ini­tia­tive to im­prove ser­vices of­fered to the tax­payer through stan­dard­ised pro­cesses and pro­ce­dures to ef­fi­ciently fa­cil­i­tate trade, col­lect tax and make sound rec­om­men­da­tions to gov­ern­ment with re­gard to tax,” Ms Pe­nane said.

“Ideally, un­der the sys­tem, a trader fills out a clear­ance form prior to reach­ing the bor­der and then pro­ceeds to cross on con­di­tion the in­for­ma­tion on the tax clear­ance cor­re­sponds with the goods they are car­ry­ing.

“When it came to ap­ply­ing the sys­tem in Maseru, how­ever, we have en­coun­tered chal­lenges em­a­nat­ing from the in­tro­duc­tion of tech­nol­ogy into a sys­tem that had been wholly man­ual over the years.”

She said traders were un­able to ac­cess clear­ance forms online and forced to start the process at the bor­der.

“The prob­lem with that, how­ever, is that since we no longer clear man­u­ally, it takes longer for agents to fill in the re­quired in­for­ma­tion at the bor­der be­cause all the in­for­ma­tion has to be ver­i­fied,” noted Ms Pe­nane.

“Many traders have had to re­turn to the Maseru Bridge bor­der post be­cause the im­port pay­ment did not cor­re­spond with the in­voice. As we are try­ing out this sys­tem, we ask for the busi­ness com­mu­nity to ex­er­cise some pa­tience and also to make sure the in­for­ma­tion they bring is cor­rect.”

She said the LRA was work­ing to­wards rec­ti­fy­ing the chal­lenges by train­ing agents and launch­ing re­fresher cour­ses for their staff.

“LRA has left the ad­vance clear­ance to in­de­pen­dent in­di­vid­u­als or agents to whom we of­fer train­ing. We also need to of­fer re­fresher train­ing to those agents as well as ca­pac­i­tat­ing our staff if need be to en­sure they can prop­erly ex­e­cute their du­ties. There is also a need to ex­tend our pro­grammes to other stake­hold- ers so they can bet­ter un­der­stan­dand the Asy­cuda process,” Ms Pe­naneane said.

“We are also try­ing to of­fer dif­fer­fer­ent ser­vices for var­i­ous busi­nessess so that small busi­nesses do not havee to queue for the same amount of timeime as large busi­nesses for in­stance.

“It is pos­si­ble to de­clare online,ne, but some­times we face in­her­entnt chal­lenges that come with thee switch to tech­nol­ogy. At suchh times, peo­ple should call our helpline on 52215111 or 52215112. Al­ter­na­tively they could email us on ecus­toms@lra.org.ls.”

She said the sys­tem was ben­e­fi­cial in the long run since it would re­duce tax eva­sion and other mal­prac­tices at the bor­der re­sult­ing in more rev­enue col­lec­tion at the bor­der.

“With the de­clin­ing South­ern African Cus­toms Union rev­enues Le­sotho has been ben­e­fit­ting from, the coun­try now has to find more re­source­ful means of col­lect­ing tax and our borders have been the weak­est link in that re­gard,” added Ms Pe­nane.

“The new in­spec­tions will re­duce the lev­els of cor­rup­tion at the bor­der as well. In the past, cus­tomers used to com­plain that it would take too long to be is­sued with a re­lease form af­ter in­spec­tion. A lot of peo­ple were com­pelled to pay bribes for a faster ser­vice. But now, with the mod­ernised non-in­tru­sive in­spec­tions done through mo­bile scan­ners, there is no need to off-load goods as in­spec­tion would be in­stant.”

LRA Chief Plan­ning and Mod­erni­sa­tion Of­fi­cer Idia Pe­nane

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