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Clearing agents blame tough KRA rules for slow port operations

The port of Mombasa on June 2, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG
The port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Clearing and forwarding agents have blamed non-tariff barriers for slow movement of cargo at the Mombasa port.

They say the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) introduced new procedures at the key infrastructure that have now become an impediment to trade.

“Cargo is coming to the port but the rate at which it is leaving is slow. The problem is that there are procedures that have been introduced which are leading to slow clearance of cargo,” said Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (Kifwa) chairman, William Ojonyo, on Thursday.

According to the lobby, although the political impasse between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nasa leader Raila Odinga that lasted more than three months was partly to blame for slow movement of goods from the port, there were more underlying issues.

Kifwa said three months ago that clearing agents had incurred a Sh600 million loss as traders scaled down their activities at the port due to electoral anxiety.

“We cannot blame the political atmosphere because that is not the problem. KRA has missed its target by billions of shillings not because the ships that were calling at the port are not coming. The problem is that the cargo is taking unnecessarily long to be cleared,” Mr Ojonyo added.

Tough rules

The logistics lobby group claimed that nearly all goods coming to the country by sea were being subjected to stringent procedures including mandatory verification that took too long.

“For the first time in the history of clearing and forwarding, all cargo is attracting storage charges because it is not possible to clear the goods within the stipulated four days,” he added.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) gives an allowance of four days to clear domestic cargo for free while transit goods should be cleared within nine days after which they start accruing storage charges.

Mr Ojonyo said Kifwa would engage relevant government agencies to ensure that their concerns are addressed.

It was not possible to get a comment from the KRA as at the publishing of this story but the taxman said it would send a statement clarifying its position on the matter.

Seal loopholes

Over the recent past, the government has tightened surveillance procedures after it emerged that smugglers and drug traffickers were taking advantage of loopholes created by more liberalised processes adopted last year in an attempt to fasten cargo clearance.

The KRA is said to have moved to clean up the customs agents list this year by striking out those believed to be engaged in shady deals.

The taxman, however, denied blacklisting agents but said vetting was ongoing as part of a licencing evaluation process.

“No agent has been blacklisted, unless those under suspension for different offences or under investigation,” Julius Musyoki, the Commissioner for Customs and Border Control, said in June.