Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) has announced that Customs offices will from September 1 start 24-hour operations.
RRA’s move is to ease the flow of goods and services in the East African Community and neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The RRA Publicist, Annette Birungi, while briefing The New Times on August 27 said,” “We are ready to start working 24-hours, seven days a week by September 1.‘’
The New Times has, however, learnt that Uganda, a crucial partner in the 24-hour operations project, is not ready.
“We are definitely looking at that direction (24- hours),” said Paul Kyeyune, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) spokesperson, when contacted, adding, “We need the manpower and extra money.”
He also said Uganda needs time to consult other stakeholders such as security operatives, Bureau of Standards staff, Immigration officials and financial institutions.
He, however, said that Uganda has already started 24-hour operations at Malaba and that subsequently from August 8 this year extended working hours for the Uganda/Rwanda border at Katuna from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Kyeyune added that opening up the 24-hour operations at Katuna will be considered after gauging the volume of business after the new operational times.
“As usual, through our collaborative efforts, Uganda (URA) and the sister revenue authorities will be meeting soon to develop a framework for the smooth operation of this arrangement. The actual time frame I cannot determine at this point,” he said.
Birungi added that extending the working time was also in line with improving (RRA’s) performance and meeting taxpayer demands for ‘just in time’ deliveries.
The 24-hour services in Rwanda start at Gatuna, the Rwanda-Uganda border; Akanyaru, Rwanda-Burundi border; and Rusumo, Rwanda-Tanzania borders.
Importers and exporters through Gisenyi—Rwanda-Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Mururu borders will also have 24-hour services, according to a statement from RRA.
Other areas include Gatsata, Kabuye fuel depots, the transit office, Gikondo long-room, and Kigali International Airport long room.
“Such (24-hour services) will benefit the business community by providing quick access to the market and reduce transport costs due to decrease of transportation time,” Birungi said.
The RRA’s announcement comes at a time border posts between Uganda and Kenya at Busia and Malaba, as well as those between Uganda and Rwanda have been operating for about eight hours a day.
The Private Sector Federation says transporters either had to drive so fast in order to try and cross the borders before they closed or spend nights at the border crossings waiting for the Customs offices to reopen the next morning.
After complaints during the East African Investment Conference in Kigali, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki made a directive that cargo delivery from Mombasa Port and all border entry ports to the land locked countries be done 24 hours, seven days a week, to speed up cargo movement on the northern corridor route.
He also directed that weighbridges that have been hampering free movement of goods on the lucrative sea route be reduced from 47 to 17.
The northern corridor is crucial for supplying goods to Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Southern Sudan.
Early August figures from Kenya Ports Authority indicate that 14,000 containers, almost two times the port’s capacity of 8,500 containers, had piled up awaiting delivery. And more than 3,000 containers were destined for the Great Lakes Region hinterland countries.