Jul 17, 2018 News
Since June 2016, Guyana was without a functioning container scanner. It meant that the country was at risk with its exports which could be tainted with illegal drugs, to countries which have tough laws.
With 80,000 containers annually coming to Guyana, the challenge of developing a system of checking containers, especially for high risk businesses, was very real. It gets even tougher when some of the empty containers are being shipped. Things ended up in some of them.
The wharves had no way of checking 100 percent of those containers. Coupled with corrupt wharf and Customs officials, the challenges were monumental.
The authorities in especially the US, which has introduced tougher port laws since 9/11, were wary of Guyana but stopped short of stopping altogether any shipments from Guyana. That would have been an unthinkable situation with the US a main trading partner for Guyana.
Yesterday, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) commissioned a new compound south of the Guyana National Industrial Company (GNIC) with a mobile container scanner, a gift from China.
In a few months’ time, GRA is hoping to also commission a fixed scanner at one of the wharves.
According to GRA officials, the event is a significant one in the continued overhaul of the authority, once described as one of the most corrupt state agencies.
Gathered at the commissioning were Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, Commissioner-General, Godfrey Statia, officials from the Chinese Embassy and others.
According to GNIC’s head, Clinton Williams, the scanner will be on continuous operations, leading to reductions of costs for stakeholders.
During the last two years, the checks on incoming and outgoing containers took a strain, with GRA forced to introduce profiling of businesses.
Williams explained that since 9/11 (the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. mainland), the mandatory requirements to be compliant with international maritime and other regulations were realities that countries had to contend with.
On top of that, Guyana signed onto agreements which forced implementation of a number of security measures.
The mobile container scanner, the GNIC official said, was manufactured by Chinese-owned Nuctech, which has been doing similar business in over 130 countries, including security at Olympics and summits. It is fitted in a Volvo truck.
According to Commissioner-General Statia, since coming into office two years ago, talks have been initiated with stakeholders in placing scanners at the major wharves and other arrangements at the smaller facilities.
Yesterday, Minister Jordan in lauding the work in getting the compound done, and scanner up and running, urged that care be taken. Lauding Statia and his team, the minister said he is intolerant of corruption, with several changes being made at GRA. Indeed, he was a former Customs staffer. He said that the idea is not to only increase revenues at GRA, but leveling the playing field and widening the tax net and not burdening a few.
In May 2010, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration acquired an electronic container scanner for US$1M for the purpose of 100 percent container scanning.
The scanner was placed into operation in May 2011, one year after it was procured. However the multimillion-dollar piece of equipment collapsed and became inoperable by October 2014. Another scanner that was acquired in November 2013 for US$5.3M, and placed into operation on January 4, 2014, became inoperable on June 18, 2016.
GRA had admitted that the first scanner was unserviceable and repairs were not cost-effective.
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