Guyana: Revenue Authority gets bureaucratic resistance to fool-proof technology -GRA Head

GRA tamper-proof ASYCUDA system being implemented

GRA – Godfrey Statia

The efforts of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to implement the fool-proof Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) system are being resisted by Government institutions, companies and even GRA officials.

This was revealed by Commissioner General, Godfrey Statia, during his first press conference for the year, on February 01, 2019, at GRA’s Camp Street Office.

Statia noted that the push back from the reported stakeholders is one of the main reasons why the system will not be fully implemented by its deadline, originally set for the end of the first quarter. Statia said this will have to be adjusted to the end of the second quarter.    

Explaining the troubling circumstances, Statia said, “We have been getting pushback from our own staff… There is also pushback from companies because we know that as long as the ASYCUDA system is in place, and you have to file cargo manifests electronically and in an advanced way, then there is less room for corruption.”
The Commissioner General added, “We have gotten pushback from our Customs Brokers. So notwithstanding how we have been moving forward, if persons refuse to abide by the system you would normally get that lag in implementation…”

Statia said, too, that Government institutions are part of the problem. In this regard, he noted that these institutions are not equipped to clear the goods themselves and are in the habit of importing “just in time cargo.”

He added, “We can’t tell the Minister of Health, or the army or the police that we are not clearing their goods (because they are not making moves to abide by the ASYCUDA System). So they are partly responsible for the backlog that we have. They have to share some of the blame.”
The tax chief said that his office wrote to Government agencies about two months now explaining that they must adjust to the new way of doing things. “But no one has moved in this direction,” the Commissioner General said.

Statia also complained about losing Customs Brokers who are trained in operating the ASYCUDA system, to ExxonMobil.
He said, “What we have also seen is that when brokers are being trained in ASYCUDA, they leave the company and go and work at Exxon and that is also one of the reasons why there is a backlog…”

When the ASYCUDA system is in place, Statia said that he will be grading not only the companies which are compliant but also those Customs Brokers who are not compliant with the system. “…So you will be able to know who are ‘A’ brokers and ‘B’ brokers and that kind of thing,” Statia added.

He said, too, that GRA has upgraded the codes that will be used in the ASYCUDA system. The tax chief said that the last time there were upgrades, it was in 2007. He said that the latest codes, being the 2017 codes, are now in place. Statia said, “That will bring us in line with worldwide standards. So you will get consistent treatment in tariffs…”

THE NEED FOR ASYCUDA
GRA’s current accounting system, the Total Revenue Integrated Processing System (TRIPS), has been working inefficiently for close to 10 years. It is on this premise that the Authority has hastened efforts towards acquiring the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA).
Speaking on the importance of moving from TRIPS to ASYCUDA, Statia noted that an examination of the TRIPS system had revealed that there were several problems which caused it to not work effectively.

Statia even stated that millions of US dollars from 2013 to 2016 were expended so as to bring the archaic TRIPS 1 System up to date. In fact, the GRA boss said that many of the modules paid for regarding the TRIPS 1 System in 2007 were never even delivered.

The Commissioner General asserted that based on the state of affairs governing the revenue authority’s IT system, discussions were held with Crown Agents, an international firm that specializes in practical and consistent solutions to financial institutions and governments.

He said that the following was decided: Cease all work on the Customs modules of the TRIPS 1 system; Concentrate all activity on the completion of the Internal Revenue Modules inclusive of e-filing services with clear delivery dates and hold further payments until the delivery of these modules.
Simultaneously, Statia commented that the GRA began discussions with United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) regarding the introduction of the ASYCUDA single window system.

The ASYCUDA, he explained, is an integrated customs management system for international trade and transport operations in a modern automated environment which allows for customs administrations and the trade community to comply with international standards when fulfilling import, export and transit related procedures.

Through its ASYCUDA Programme, GRA hopes to modernize customs operations and improve revenue collection; facilitate trade efficiency and competitiveness by substantially reducing transaction time and costs; improve security by streamlining procedures of cargo control, transit of goods and clearance of goods; reduce corruption by enhancing the transparency of transactions; and promote sustainable development by cutting down on the use of paper, through the use of electronic transactions and documents.

The Commissioner General said that the agreement with UNCTAD has been signed, payment has been effected, and the team to run the new system has been chosen. Statia said that training has commenced.

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Comments

  • Jasmine  On February 3, 2019 at 8:59 am

    We all know why all of this opposition is occurring. The nay sayers want things to remain the same so they continue with their underhanded way of doing business. Who exactly is running this country??? Why is the government cow towing to these businesses? How does it expect to reverse the corruption practices that have been going on for the last 25 years if they don’t penalize these companies? It’s all a big joke if you ask me since the government does not seem to have any power in this situation.

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