Automation, Transparency, and Accountability for Trade Facilitation – a Bangladesh Customs Success S
On September 6, 2018 the National Board of Revenue (NBR) in collaboration with the USAID/Bangladesh Trade Facilitation Activity (BTFA) held a launching ceremony of the National Enquiry Point (NEP), Customs Hotline, and e-Auction. As the implementing partner of BTFA, IBI has supported partnership between the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) and the business community to develop these major trade facilitation tools. The World Trade Organization (WTO) lists NEP as a requirement for joining the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).
National Enquiry Point As a signatory to the TFA, the National Board of Revenue has taken the initiative to implement NEP in Bangladesh for trade-related information. Finding information using NEP is simple for anyone who has a trade-related question. The Customs website has an NEP “menu” right on the homepage (www.bangladeshcustoms.gov.bd). When a visitor clicks on the “National Enquiry Point” button, he or she is offered two options: to submit a question, or to look for an answer in the frequently asked questions (FAQs). Once a question is submitted, the user receives a confirmation email with an estimated response time. Questions range from general ones like “How does Customs determine a tariff classification?” to more specific ones, such as “What is the tax or duty to import a TV as a baggage item in airports?” There are currently over 140 FAQs in the system.
Enhanced Customs E-Auction
An important functions of Customs is to dispose of uncleared, left behind, or confiscated goods. Using Customs Auction to accomplish this task provides an additional source of government revenue. The BTFA team worked with NBR to raise awareness of the steps that could be taken to improve efficiency of Customs Auction procedures. A series of workshops that included members of NBR, various Custom Houses and Commissionerates, and BTFA experts provided a forum for identifying processes for automation. BTFA then developed software to automate the following stages of the Customs Auction process:
E-registration of bidders
Automated reports to identify “out of time goods”
E-messages to importers, shippers, etc.
Automated calculation of “reserve price”
Automated release and exit of auctioned goods
Automated write-off of source documents within the system of goods auctioned.
Introduction of the electronic system will simplify the auction process by eliminating redundant steps and unifying procedures. It will reduce congestion at the port and at land customs stations, save space, and increase revenue. Customs Intelligence Hotline BTFA has assisted NBR in establishing a secure, centralized system that provides an opportunity for an importer, exporter, or anyone from the general public to submit information about misconduct, such as corruption or smuggling. The system can be easily accessed through a landline or mobile phone, email, or mobile application. The option to stay anonymous builds confidence in potential users and encourages active citizen participation in identifying fraudulent activities. These instruments will decrease time and cost of conducting trade, spur economic growth, and increase government revenue for Bangladesh. They are now available at www.bangladeshcustoms.gov.bd.