NBR fails to keep brokers off customs houses

Jasim Uddin | Published: 23:05, Nov 12,2016

 
 

An internet photo shows the Chittagong Customs House in port city. More than 100 outsiders still remain actively involved as middlemen in customs assessment process and other customs-related activities in the country’s customs houses, particularly at the CCH.

Warns officials of punishment for having relations with the outsiders

More than 100 outsiders still remain actively involved as middlemen in customs assessment process and other customs-related activities in the country’s customs houses, particularly at the Chittagong Customs House, as the National Board of Revenue has failed to drive them out from the houses despite taking several attempts.
NBR officials said that an acute shortage of manpower at the customs houses and customs officials’ dependency on the brokers, locally known as ‘faltu’, were creating room for corruption and harassment of traders and causing serious risks to revenue protection and customs security system.
They said that around 100 middlemen remained active with covert support of the customs officials at the CCH alone.
There are many other brokers who are active at 18 private off-docks under the CCH and other customs houses.
Middlemen are also involved in illegal financial transactions between corrupt customs officials and dishonest traders in different stages of customs assessment.
In this context, the NBR in a recent instruction asked the customs houses to drive out the middlemen immediately and conduct their activities with the existing manpower as an interim measure as the revenue board has taken a move to recruit manpower for the customs houses.
The NBR will take action against the officials having relations with the outsiders, it said.
A senior NBR official said that the CCH had already issued an order to check the interference of those outsiders.
The CCH will also take stern action against the officials who will allow the outsiders in customs activities, he said.
The Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate of the NBR in a recent report on the CCH said that the customs house was suffering from an acute manpower shortage.
The CCH is operating its activities with only 257 employees, starting from senior officers to lower rank ones, against 674 approved posts, it said.
‘Middlemen have become highly important in conducting customs activities due to the manpower crisis as the CCH is running with only one-third of approved manpower,’ the report signed by CIID director general Moinul Khan observed.
Presence of these brokers inside the customs house is raising questions about the capacity of the authorities in handling customs procedures, it stated.
The CCH is the highest revenue earnings office of the NBR. In the fiscal year
of 2015-2016, the revenue board got Tk 31,244 crore from the CCH alone when the board’s total
earnings were Tk 1.55 lakh crore.
The CCH will not be able to improve its quality of services to the exporters and importers due to its manpower shortage, the CIID said.
The CIID also recommended that the revenue board take immediate step to recruit more manpower for the office.
‘Outsiders [middlemen] might also face legal action, if they don’t willingly leave the customs houses,’ Moinul Khan told New Age on Saturday.
Officials said that the NBR in 2007 drove out the outsiders but they came back soon taking the advantage of manpower crisis and influence on customs officials at the CCH.
In 2014 Transparency International-Bangladesh in a report on the CCH said that customs officials were so dependent on middlemen that in many cases they had the access to files and even they knew the password of the computers of the customs officials.
Customs officials illegally assign them to work as their personal assistant, it said. 

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