Some importers uneasy over new random 100% container searches – but Chamber President backs move

[] – While Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority Khurshid Sattaur has been touting the recently instituted Random Selection of Imported Goods for Examination exercise as a means of impacting positively on the level of transparency associated with Customs inspections of imports, the private sector has been expressing its own sometimes divergent views on the process.

The Guyana Revenue Authority last week expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the trial run, which saw members of the public witness the inspection of a container of imports. Businessmen with whom this newspaper spoke also indicated their support for measures designed to ensure that Customs searches are transparent and conducted on a level playing field. Some, however, had concerns over difficulties that might arise from the singling out of individual consignments for thorough (100 per cent) searches.

While all of the seven importers with whom this newspaper spoke said they were mindful that their views not be construed as being unsupportive of the new procedure, most of them cited “security reasons” as cause for their apprehension over the new system.

“One of the obvious concerns has to do with the fact that the system that is being employed exposes information on the contents of containers to large numbers of people who, presumably, are randomly selected to witness the searches,” one importer told Stabroek Business. His concern, he said, was that “in the prevailing high-crime situation,” the business places where those goods would be subsequently stored could become targets for robberies.

Crime concerns apart, all of the importers with whom Stabroek Business spoke expressed concerns over what they see as a time-consuming system, which, one businessman said, “could literally take an entire day.” Some were also of the view that while the law provided for goods to be inspected by “the designated agency,” that is the Customs and Trade Administration, exposure of the contents of containers to members of the public might amount to an unacceptable invasion of their privacy.

By contrast, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Clinton Urling has expressed his own considerable support for the new random search system. In a brief written response to a question put to him by the Stabroek Business Urling said the Chamber had not received any complaints “on this new procedure adopted by the GRA.”

He added that the new system was “a favourable one” that was designed to “capture those who might be evading taxes or transporting illicit or illegal items”; that it was not “an uncommon procedure and is adopted in many other foreign jurisdictions.”