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Custom Brokers association writes to PM citing difficulties due to faceless assessment

It has suggested to the authority that instead of implementing fully faceless assessment the focus should be on a risk management system (RMS)

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The Federation of Custom Brokers’ Association in India has written a letter to the PM Modi informing about the hassles faced by customs brokers due to implementation of faceless assessment. They informed that it is also resulting in an increase in numerous hidden costs. Therefore, it has suggested to the authority that instead of implementing fully faceless assessment the focus should be on a risk management system (RMS).

The trade association has pointed out that after the implementation of faceless assessment the dwell time of assessment has increased due to which the transaction cost has increased. This has caused a slowdown in the manufacturing process and also the economy of India. The shipping companies are charging EXIM rate in foreign currencies in a haphazard manner.

“The concept of introduction of faceless assessment was to bring an end to cut down the physical appearance and illegal gratification whereas the results are quite different. The officers even do not know how to assess the Bill of Entry (knowingly/unknowingly) and have started giving multiple means of queries, giving unnecessary examination orders, etc. The Bill of entry is idle for several days unattended by the assessing officer at different faceless assessment locations. The status of the Bill of Entry is untraceable at the faceless assessment point. The customs brokers are forced to appoint middle-men to look after their assessment work at other ports resulting in additional costs on the customs broker, which is indirectly passed on the importer. It may kindly be noted that the illegal gratification has not been stopped, whereas, it has been brown enormously. Hence, the importers are left with no choice but to surrender the assessing officers just to save their business. The goods are required at the factory for production purpose of the importer. The traders who have sold their goods in advance are also suffering in this situation. It appears that ease of doing business does not prevail,” stated in the letter.

“In the last 10 years, the percentage of RMS clearance of Bill of Entry was gradually increased and that is the best option for ensuring uniformity in assessment across the country. The same was also faceless only the goods registration of Bill of Entry was required to be done in docks examination of the section for the purpose of seal verification. Now under the faceless assessment, the officers are giving outright examination orders due to which the officers posted in docks examination sections are creating unnecessary delay to the reasons known to them. Under the said circumstances the loss is indirectly affecting the Indian economy as the cost of the import is affecting the consumer”, highlighted in the letter.

Commenting on the initiated step by the association, Sahil Munjal, Vice-President, Pharmexcil, commented, “In a letter addressed to Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi by the Director of Federation of Customs Broker’s Association of India, ground-level difficulties faced by Customs Brokers at all Indian customs stations were highlighted and intervention was sought. Though the faceless assessment was implemented to cut down illegal gratification in practice, however, it has led to delays. It appears ease of doing business does not prevail-at least as of now. Under the faceless assessment, officers are giving outright examination orders due to which officers posted in the docks section are further creating an unnecessary delay. The condition has been aggravated by the implementation of section 28DA of Customs Act & AROTAR 2020 with respect to rules of origin and verification of Certificates of Origin as a request for verification now needs to be sent to authorities in exporting countries-which is adding on to the delays. This all seems to be due to a lack of proper training and awareness at the ground level. Therefore, in my opinion, the Indian Government needs to act fast and ensure phase-wise implementation of the faceless assessment and come up with a quick solution.”

Dinesh Dua, Chairman, Pharmexcil, emphasised, “At a time when India’s GDP has contracted so acutely this disruption comes as a huge deterrent to recovery. All the great work done by the top brass of the country PM, FM, MOSF has been derailed by innocuous and inept handling by certain Customs Officials to slow down Faceless Assessments for reasons best known to them. Sooner we correct the malaise the better to make faceless assessment a grand success.”

A custom broker from Mumbai said, “I completely agree with the submission of the association, and feels the need of 99 per cent of the Bill of Entry should be assessed under RMS, which will surely lessen the illegal gratification besides faster movement of the cargoes. Thus it will help in reducing the unnecessary cost escalation and undue delay of consignments.”

Considering all of these issues, the trade body has suggested that a risk management system is the best option to bring an end to illegal gratification as well as cut down the physical interface between the assessing officer and the importer/ broker.

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