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Tunisia : Sinda experiences delays and involves fines

The latest Audit Court’s Report for 2007, has criticized the Tunisian Customs, over failures that meet grievances repeatedly made by Tunisian businessmen, at several meetings with Customs. The report mentions significant, remarks made by AC auditors during visits to   Tunis- Port and North-Goulette Customs offices.

The Court of Auditors criticizes quite seriously Customs.

Repeatedly criticized by businessmen, Sinda computer system that Customs yet fiercely defended, was checked primarily by auditors who pointed out that “the system helped shorten the clearance time, while providing the necessary rigor to the clearance process However “the delay in regulating or handling a large number of requests for delivery or loading gave rise to  a large number of fines” .That provides the undisputable evidence  that charges carried out by some traders and exporters, which have complained of fines sometimes at least irregular and having serious financial consequences, are sound .

Regarding Sinda management itself, the auditors checked technological deficiencies. They noted that “additional clearance continues to be handled manually, that temporary admission has no outlet designed to refuse the registration of non-compliant deadlines “and that” the application for temporary seizure, suffers gaps as far as data completeness is concerned. ”

And this is not the worst!

AC auditors  found that “a significant number of declarations filed to Port of Tunis customs office gave rise to clearance  without payment of customs duties and due taxes .” AC has even considered that such debts under the customs and change fines checked and non collected amount to 518 000 dinars.
“ The review of files relating to items checked in the records of  Tunis Port customs office involves to deficiencies in collecting debts. Some items have been checked more than three years after contradictory judgements were returned «according to auditors who criticized “the tax collector of  Port of Tunis customs office for failing to use all available legal means  to secure debts collection.”

Note that the response of the Ministry of Finance to  AC’s remarks  has in no way belies the facts checked. Overall, the Ministry said that necessary efforts will be made in 2008. Empty promise? AC will certainly tackle again the issue in its next report.

Clearance, legal suspension and customs warehouses

CA auditors also looked into legal suspension of customs taxes, clearance procedures and customs warehouses. With regard to clearance, the report notes that “notwithstanding the significant improvement in clearance rate which rose from 3.6 days in 2000 to 1.2 days in 2006, some categories of goods subject to control procedures or administrative approval, continue to suffer long periods of warehousing ”

As far as legal suspension is concerned it was noticed that “in terms of temporary admission for processing, neither the collector nor the cell of customs regimes hold updated lists of outstanding declarations”.

As for the system of bonded warehouses, “it was noted at the level of the actual warehouse, an amount of packages kept in excess under overrun deadlines, without being handled or accepted by the collector.

Regarding shadow warehouses, auditors noted “a significant number of fines for deficit of dutiable goods.

The Ministry’s reply.

Replying to AC remarks, Customs administration pointed out, under the hand of the   Ministry of Finance, that it will endeavour to “clear  the backlog in the management  of  goods seized or stored, so as to avoid their accumulation; and that it will ensure the” regulation of  authorization requests relating to clearance and export , as well as the outstanding declarations and the follow up of the legal suspension regime”.

Customs administration also shows readiness to “follow up on time temporary admission operations”. It pointed out, regarding the clearance low rate, that “this rate reached 83% in Tunis office-Port and 75% in the North Goulette.”

Note that this Audit Court new report confirms what has been repeatedly said by traders regarding Customs which, undoubtedly made efforts. AC report will surely provide to customs administration the opportunity to improve its performance, because it seems that still it has still a lot of work.

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