The customs division of the South African Revenue Service is investing in technology to improve the facilitation of trade, revenue collection and compliance by import and export traders across South Africa’s borders.
This is according to Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter, who was speaking at the annual International Customs Day on Wednesday. He said digital transformation and the increased use of data are necessary to combat increased sophistication of organised crime and better manage the expanding volume and complexity of international trade.
The commissioner reported that a customs modernisation programme has led to an improvement in the average case turnaround time on interventions. The programme has also seen frontline interventions come down from an average of 109 hours in March 2020 to 38 hours by December 2021. It also reduced the stop rate for “authorised economic operators” by 86%, leading to savings in cost and time.
“We have improved our risk-based interventions to detect and deter illicit trade by an average success rate of 54% by the end of December 2021, which has raised an additional R2-billion in revenue. As of December 2021, customs more than doubled the value of seizures compared to the previous year, from R1.5-billion to R3.5-billion, including narcotics, clothing and textiles,” Kieswetter said.
The Sars commissioner said several other initiatives, built on increased use of data and expanding the data ecosystem, had led to progress at the borders.
“We are currently piloting a number plate recognition system at Beit Bridge with the help of key stakeholders such as the Freight Association and Technical Services Providers Association. More than 99% of all cross-border truck manifests are now reported electronically to Sars prior to the arrival of the truck at the border, which includes the truck registration details.”
To extend practical benefits to traders and increase compliance, a “Single Window” platform is being implemented, in partnership with Transnet. The platform will allow marine carriers to submit reports once to both entities to improve port efficiency. The implementation of this platform will be followed by a national Single Window to allow traders to submit all cross-border documents through a single point of entry to government, and enable other border agencies to view, stop and detain goods for agricultural, health and safety concerns.