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SA customs goes digital

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan

The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has introduced a new digital customs management system at border posts, finance minister Pravin Gordhan said on Thursday.

“This is a very important milestone,” Gordhan told media at Megawatt Park in Sunninghill, Johannesburg. “We would be one of the few countries that has completely digitised customs processes in the world.”

The new system would centralise the clearing of all import and export declarations and use a single processing engine. This would help trade by reducing red tape.

The new system came into effect on Saturday after it ran concurrently with the old one for six months in a testing period. The digitised customs process would help legal trade to happen and happen faster, Gordhan explained.

“There has been a massive reduction in time for those that are legitimate traders. What the system will do is to make it [trade]fully electronic, get many middle people out of the way … and businesses could now get their goods far faster.”

In the 2012/2013 fiscal year, more than 4,3m containers, representing R2,5 trillion worth of trade, moved across the country’s borders, he said.

Sars customs officials used about 16m pieces of paper to process 5,5m declarations received for the same period, he explained. “The customs management system now eliminates virtually 99% if not all of that paper.”

The system would improve competitiveness and reduce crime by detecting illicit goods more efficiently. It had better security and risk detection and people “can’t play around with the numbers”.

Asked about the cost of the new system, Gordhan said it was difficult to say. He could not provide an exact figure.  — Sapa

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