Customs Need Stable Law And Skilful Customs Officers
25 April, 2012
Customs Need Stable Law And Skilful Customs Officers

Frequent changes in customs legislation and lack of professional skills in customs personnel still puzzle business in Georgia in spite of successful reforms of 2010-2011, making Georgian customs administration corruption-free and more business-friendly.



The governmental approach toward business has been fundamentally changes in 2011. A new head of Revenue Service assigned to the post in spring of 2011 conducted a very fruitful campaign developing communication between government and business through permanent consultations with business and making both tax and customs

administration more tax-payers oriented.  But integration of customs law with tax code in 2010 so as to regulate tax-related issued through one code made custom framework legislation relatively superficial and laid ground to instability of regulation. The point is that number of essential paragraphs was removed from customs code and put in different secondary legislation that is changed quite frequently as a rule. And searching for permanently changing regulations dissipated beyond framework law is a discomforting and burdensome task to business that is lost in normative acts as a consequence.


Bondo Bolkvadze, independent customs expert, approves integration of customs and tax code as an idea but he thinks that the removed paragraphs would better be put back so as to make the framework legislation more comprehensive and stable what is the most important to business.
“Unification of tax and customs codes was a good thing from administrative expenses point of view. But I disapprove that customs code became very shallow as a result, I think the code had better be more comprehensive and all key issues and provisions that must be stable and were removed from code and put in  secondary legislation be put back in the code. Secondary legislation is easier to change that enables to change some things even once per month or week. Unstable legislation is unpleasant to business.  I would like to have customs code more spacious and effective,” Bolkvadze said in the interview with Georgian Journal. 
Another key customs challenge is inexperienced customs officers. To solve the endemic corruption problem in customs administration resistant for many years Rose Government almost completely removed old  personnel from customs body and employed new staff who do not take bribes but lack professionel skills harassing business during customs procedures. Some businessmen even joke that they would like to have back the old officers who used to solve the problem for GEL 50 instantly rather than spend hours with inexperienced greenies for time is very important to business.
Bolkvadze agrees that lack of professional skills in customs officers is one of the key challenges Georgian Revenue Service [incorporating both tax and custom administration after reforms of 2007 based on the analogy of  similar successful services in several EU states] must solve but  approves governmental policy of changing cadres  by almost by 95% believing that it was impossible to combat corruption otherwise.
“Customs reforms and procedures moved forward very much in 2011 and 2010  from service point of view as its priority was focused on tax-payers and some kind of common satisfaction was achieved in business circles, however there are some issues that still remain problematic: for example improvement of professional skills of customs personnel. There is deficit of skills at the moment as far as there were fundamental reforms customs recently and about 95% of personel was changed and now average experience of them is about 2 years and 6 months or less. There are some obstacles that are removed in 1-2 hours but training of new staff to improve their skills can bring to better results. This change was a good step for corruption cannot be removed otherwise, old generation might teach only corruption to the new one who face deficit of experience but they manage their task whatsoever,” Bolkvadze said in the interview with Georgian Journal. 
According to him, bribing customs officers to solve the problem instantly was handy to big fishes like transportation companies with an expansive chain of channels but small business who imported things once a quarter and had no connections was discriminated and had to stay in demurrage for three days.
“Corruption and so called GEL 50 deals were actual when the total corruption was prohibited and everything was put in frameworks of law but the law was so unclear that caused delays and this GEL 50 was seriously a very good tool to get through difficulties. But new Customs Clearance Zones (CCZ) introduced in 2010-2011 and offering one-stop-shop principle for customs clearance offers a really good high standard service, private sector seems quite happy, importers submit only documents and can relax; they can enjoy excellent comforts in cafes and bars,” Bolkvadze elaborated.
However business claim the state-based CCZ fixes high prices and it ousted private customs clearance terminals off the market through state pressure. Bolkvadze downplays he monopolization theory as customs clearance procedures falls in the state responsibility and it did not do this before for there was no infrastructure. But Bolkvadze finds the CZZ tariffs really high that counter the principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that includes Georgia as its member state. According to him, the fee tariffs were defined by Georgian government while the tariff policy should be based on the WTO recommendations advising that any fee for service rendered by the state to the private sector should not exceed the service cost.

 

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