The move by the new Comptroller of Customs Frank Holder to address the issue of the mis-invoicing of imported goods is being lauded.
Kudos have come Reverend Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt, Director General of the Barbados Consumers Research Organisation Inc. (BarCRO), who has long called for greater transparency concerning the cost of imports coming into this country. He said the new thrust by the Government department as it moves from the paper-based platform to a digital one in the form of ASYCUDA World, could, if properly implemented, assist in that regard.
His comments came during an interview with The Barbados Advocate, as he explained that he was of the firm belief that under-invoicing and even over-invoicing, though perhaps not as often, were issues that have been plaguing the Customs Department for years and needed to be wrestled to the ground. He made the point while noting that particularly in respect of under-invoicing, the fraudulent act was depriving Government of much needed revenue. Gibbs-Taitt’s comments came as he noted that too often importers have found ways around the system. To that end, he said he is reserving judgement on the new system for the time being.
“I believe that the new technological changes will work. From what I gather, there are systems in place now for the correcting of whatever might be wrong and spotting when some people are either over or under invoiced and from my point of view I think that is very good. It was needed ever since and I feel the Customs people need a little time to see if it works, because it looks to me that everyone would benefit if it works,” he added.
Gibbs-Taitt made the remarks while reflecting on a previous call he made for a prices commission or prices ombudsman to be established in this country. The consumer advocate, who made the suggestion as far back as 2013, explained that such an official would not only guarantee Government’s coffers would get their just due, but ensure that there is greater transparency with respect to the cost of products being imported into and sold in this country.
“My concern was that an invoice would come to Barbados from one company buying a particular product where the invoice shows a price, and you may get another company dealing with the same commodity and yet the price is different. So my concern was, surely if we had a body properly set-up monitoring what people are bringing in and from where they bring the stuff, you would be able by way of a proper management system on the computer, to compare the products and the prices and identify discrepancies,” he stated.
He added that the new computerised system should now be able to deal with the peculiarities that happened in the past. (JRT)