Lack of data access affects customs union

Difficulty in data sharing in all revenue and port authorities coupled with different electronic cargo tracking systems by regional states is affecting implementation of the EAC single customs territory (EAC SCT).

Difficulty in data sharing in all revenue and port authorities coupled with different electronic cargo tracking systems by regional states is affecting implementation of the EAC single customs territory (EAC SCT).

Members of the Committee on Communication, Trade and Investments of the East African Legislative Assembly said non-compatibility of revenue bodies’ IT systems with port authorities also complicates matters.

MP Mukasa Mbidde (Uganda), the chairperson of the committee, said, last week, that things are not helped by difficult processes by revenue authorities to grant access and rights to clearing and forwarding agents and customs officers.

Under the SCT, a destination model of clearance of imports was adopted in 2013, where assessment and collection of tax revenues on consignments is done at the first point of entry to facilitate customs management and free circulation of goods.

Mbidde said there are also fears and concerns by clearing and forwarding agents in Tanzania and Kenya of losing business and employment.

MP Mike Sebalu (Uganda) said such fears abound in all partner states.

The MPs called for sensitisation programmes to various stakeholders, including the wider private sector-manufacturers and traders on the SCT operations and processes.

“Some members of the private sector want the status quo to be maintained because they don’t want the market to be opened up for other competitors and yet all we need as a region is to ensure that we get quality in terms of products, efficiency in terms of service and production and low costs of doing business for the benefit of the citizens,” Sebalu said.

MP James Ndahiro (Rwanda) suggested that the Assembly’s Legal, Rules and Privileges Committee invite regional stakeholders to hear their side of the story from challenges faced.

Considering that EAC is looking to negotiate with other regional groupings on how to establish a free trade area, Ndahiro said, if the bloc has to invest in a free trade area, it has to first consolidate own customs union.

“If we are not careful, we might sign into the free trade area before we consolidate and then the customs union procedures will be compromised, or we shall be contradicting our own standards and regulations,” he said.

Ndahiro argued that regional entities involved in education should incorporate business and related studies in their curricula because one of the challenges is that customs regulations are technical.

The regional parliament’s meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi, last week, passed the EAC Customs Management Act that is expected to ease SCT operationalisation.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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