ADB identifies customs key areas as obstacles to better service delivery

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has pointed out some key areas where customs crucially need to develop its capacities for trade facilitation.

The areas include customs classification of goods, valuation, investigation and enforcement, quick clearance of goods, post-clearance audit, money-laundering inquiry, investigation and prevention, non-intrusive inspection, risk management and analysis of budgetary measures, etc.

To address the existing shortcomings, the Manila-based multilateral development partner has framed an action plan, in consultation with the National Board of Revenue (NBR), analysing the need, strategy of Bangladesh customs’ capacity building.

“Lacking in training is creating a hindrance to the service delivery of the department,” the ADB said in the action plan.

Talking to the FE, Khondaker Muhammad Aminur Rahman, member of customs audit, modernisation and international trade, said the NBR would take opinion of the stakeholders and customs officials on the plan.

He said the ADB prepared the plan recently for providing technical assistance as part of Customs Modernisation Plan-2019-22. The NBR will have to impart trainings to the officials in some key areas, he added.

The ADB would provide the support under its US$150 million fund assistance for South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Integrated Trade Facilitation Sector Development Programme, he added.

The functions of Customs are technical and with the changes of time and world economy, major changes are taking place in the customs system and procedure, the action plan said.

“To ensure updated knowledge and make customs officials technically sound, NBR arranges some skill development trainings. But for many reasons, such trainings are not regular,” it said.

According to the recruitment policy of NBR, all the recruits are fresh from educational institution.

“They do not have any background of customs knowledge and other official procedure. To make them accustomed to Customs functions and activities, they have to undergo foundation training,” the action plan said.

In general, NBR organises such training courses by getting fund from donor or other agencies, it said. “As the numbers of such training are few, only a limited number of officers get chances to participate.”

With the fund support of NBR or development partners, Bangladesh Customs, Excise and VAT Training Academy (CEVTA) organises specialised training courses, but their numbers are very few.

Most of the BCS cadre officers receive foundation training just after their joining the service. But, in many cases, they had received only the foundation training in their entire service life from the academy, the ADB said.

“There is a need to arrange specialized training programmes regularly,” it said.

The Customs has a wider fundamental economic role in trade management, revenue collection, social protection, and statistics collection.

The ADB said that significant investments of Customs in new technologies and enhanced processes would remain inoperative without skilled and competent manpower.

It said that training on classification of goods is required to assess goods and collect proper duty taxes.

“Though the method of classification remains unchanged for many years but with the development of technology, the nature and functions of many commodities are changing leading to a change of classification,” it said.

All over the world, Customs are working in the frontline in trade facilitation. So, they need to simplify their procedure and reengineer their business process, it added.

Training is the only means to familiarise the customs officials with the international best practices so that they can use it in their system with modification, the action plan said.

Bangladesh Customs needed to develop capacity in some core areas of Customs activities as well as managerial, technological and soft skills, the action plan said.

Training on WTO, International Trade Regime and Trade Facilitation Agreement, its framework and implementation status in Bangladesh, budgetary measures analysis, their enforcement, coping with the changes in the Customs Act and allied acts and tariff schedule, revenue implications of budgetary measures are required, the action plan said.

The customs also needed training on curbing smuggling techniques, concealment, risk indicators, intelligence, coordination among the agencies, national anti-smuggling platforms, search and seizure.

They also needed training on some modern technologies such as scanner, computer hardware, information and communication equipment.

The ADB recommended some courses for improving capacity and capabilities of customs officials including non-intrusive inspection (Image Analysis) technology, chemical analysis course for chemical laboratory, Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS), identifying and managing hazardous chemicals.❐

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