Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The deputy prime minister yesterday admitted that Customs' new system had required "a steeper learning curve than expected" as he pledged to work with the private sector to resolve all woes.
Acknowledging "challenges" with the Click2Clear electronic single window (BESW) clearance system, K Peter Turnquest vowed to "work with" brokers and importers to adapt their systems to the new processes.
Responding to criticisms of Click2Clear programme outside Cabinet, Mr Turnquest said: "The Click2Clear is a little bit of a challenge for us; I think more so from perception than a reality in a lot of circumstances. Because the fact of the matter is it is a new programme. There is a steep learning curve; a little steeper than we had anticipated, I think we would have to admit that."
Some brokers have suggested that Bahamians were not properly educated on how the clearance process has in effect been reversed, with others arguing that the former Electronic Customs Automated Services (eCAS) system for goods clearance worked better for them. They also questioned if Click2Clear will stop the revenue leakages at Customs and increase efficiency.
Mr Turnquest, though, said: "We are doing our best to try and support all of the brokers, and support all of the importers to get up and going and work out what the bugs and bottlenecks may be as quickly as possible."
Some brokers have also told Tribune Business that portions of the Click2Clear system are redundant, as they ask for information that has already been supplied. Others told Tribune Business that filling out the new system takes up too much time, adding some two-and-a-half hours to what they would normally have done through the former eCAS process.
Mr Turnquest added: "We acknowledge the challenges. We recognise that on our side of the fence there are some issues that we have had to work through as well as working with the importers and the brokers on their side to adapt their systems so that they can take advantage of the technology that is provided by the new system."
A November 8, 2019, letter sent by Christina Taylor, general manager at Pinder's Customs Brokerage, to the firm's clients details the specific challenges all brokers and importers have had with the new Customs system.
"One of the largest proposed benefits of clearance on ESW was that the process would be automated," the letter, seen by Tribune Business, states. "It was stressed to us repeatedly in the training sessions with Customs that once taxes were paid for a declaration, shipments would be (essentially) instantly released, so that goods could be picked up and delivered very shortly after payment.
"It was stated that the process we used to call entry checking would occur as post-auditing - officers would do their checking/auditing of declarations days/weeks after a declaration had been paid/released/delivered. This is not what is happening so far."