January 30, 2009
Customs officers begin week with church service

Viclene Matthews 30.JAN.09

The Customs and Excise Department has completed a one week drive aimed at increasing compliance through effective partnerships, delivering efficient customer service and security.{{more}}

The week commenced with a church service on Sunday, January 25, 2009, at the St George’s Cathedral, followed by visits to several secondary schools on mainland St Vincent and the Grenadine island of Bequia on Monday.

Last Monday was also celebrated as International Customs Day. International Customs day was instituted by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) to recognize the efforts of customs workers throughout the world and their contribution to making our communities safe and secure.

The general public was not to be left out of the week’s activities, as three days of public awareness formed part of the programme, which focused on the theme: “Increased Compliance through Effective Partnerships, Efficient Customer service and Security for Enhanced Facilitation”.

Customs and Excise Assistant Comptroller Irwina Phills said the general public has responded well to the information booth that was housed outside their office. “They have been very enthusiastic, especially in the area of prohibited and restricted items,” Phills said.

Some of the items that persons are prohibited from importing into this country include pornographic material, which covers videos, books and toys. The restricted items include fireworks and alcohol – for which an importer has to obtain a license.

Phills stated that the aim of the information booth was to educate and make persons more aware of the customs laws and regulations. She is encouraging importers and traders to comply with the necessary laws.

Customs Comptroller Grenville John, giving a synopsis of the roles and functions of his department (Border protection, revenue collection and trade facilitation), said the Customs collects more than 50 percent of the government’s revenue.

According to John, the department is “frontline” in border protection and security. He disclosed that officers are stationed at our 13 ports of entry. He said that they work closely with law enforcement agencies such as the police and Coast Guard to help protect our borders.

The Comptroller mentioned that the department has done quite a lot in the past two years to improve their effectiveness. He believes that the implementation of the Asycuda++ has helped to facilitate trade, as well as “increase the speed by which persons will get their goods cleared at customs”.

The week’s activities will climax today with an awards ceremony and cocktail reception where members of staff will be recognized for their outstanding contribution to the department. (VM)