The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is undertaking fresh vetting of import cargo handlers and clearing agents in a bid to weed out deceptive players who introduce undeclared goods in containers.
The KRA Commissioner for Customs and Boarder Control, Julius Musyoki, said this will lock out cargo consolidating agents who have been engaging in tax evasion practices such as under-declaring goods or giving false description of the contents of goods being imported.
“We are vetting all consolidators and registering them to weed out all such players that are inserting undeclared contents in the containers to avoid taxes. This is what is causing delays to importers,” said Mr Musyoki last week.
The vetting also follows increased complaints from importers that some clearing agents conspire with shipping firms to create fictitious delays in delivery of their goods so as to slap them with high demurrage costs.
Cargo consolidators are firms that handle a wide range of products or general merchandise imported in small quantities or parcels belonging to several traders who have pooled or assembled together with their parcels to form one consignment.
KRA will consider, among other things, conformity with procedural, legal and constitutional requirements in assessing the suitability of applicants.
Upon completion of the process that has also attracted Anti-Counterfeit Agency and Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), the taxman said that the approved firms will be issued with certificates and their names gazetted.
“This will make it easier for importers to identify genuine consolidators and curb cases of losses resulting from delayed clearances,” said Mr Musyoki.
KRA has rolled out a joint program with Kebs to ensure that all consolidated goods will be subjected to checks at the country of source to reduce delays when ships land at Mombasa Port.
In addition, it has installed non-intrusive scanners at key border points to help detect suspicious items while the regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System monitors transit cargo from the point of entry to the exit to eliminate offloading of undeclared goods in the local market.
The taxman plans to roll out online auctioning of all goods that lie idle at the port in the next six months. This is expected to increase transparency of value of bids and identity of those involved to reduce cases of goods being auctioned without the knowledge of their owners.
In April, Kebs issued a notice to importers of consolidated cargo to register with the agency to have their goods inspected under a new procedure created by the standards agency and KRA.