Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 27, 2017 (SKNIS): The St. Kitts and Nevis Customs and Excise Department levied $143,000 in fines in 2016 from 70 cases, according to Kennedy De Silva, Deputy Comptroller of Customs in the Office of the Comptroller.
Speaking on the weekly radio and television show “Working For You” on January 25, Mr. De Silva said most of the cases have to do with false declaration and fraud. He said the unit within the department is small and is working effectively within its limited budget.
“The guys have been working. It’s a pretty small unit. It’s about, on a typical day, six or seven officers when no one is on vacation,” Mr. De Silva said. “When the frontline officer flags something and says there may be a concern, he is not the one who investigates, he just flags it. “Most of our cases tend to be along the lines of false declaration (and) fraud but sometimes we have other cases like illegal entry and that sort of thing,” the deputy comptroller said.
Meanwhile, speaking to some of the challenges facing the St. Kitts and Nevis Customs and Excise Department, Mr. De Silva spoke about the busy Christmas period and steps the department took to handle the increased demand. One of the first things he listed was the refusal to grant vacation to Customs officers at that time of the year. During that time, working hours are also extended.
“We try our best to work along with the Port Authority because the Port Authority is the one that carries the cargo around and transfers them from station to station. What they try to do is that in the evening, when no one is around they try to transfer the cargo from the docks into the warehouses, so the officers would work there till in the night,” Mr. De Silva said.
He disclosed that some Customs officers were working until 2am.
“We do a lot of background work but what happens is that sometimes it’s just a matter that the operations exceed the capacity of both, perhaps port and Customs to manage it, and that is why we went into a lot of the automation to sort of simplify that process,” Mr. De Silva said. He explained that the major bottlenecks during the holiday period were due to moving the cargo from one location to the next for it to be checked by Customs. Essentially, the problem of a backlog of parcels during the Christmas period had mostly to do with logistics, according to Mr. De Silva.