Industry News

New Sars initiatives speed up cross-border trade

Article by Nicole Jacobs from FTW

South African Revenue Service (Sars) has made significant progress in facilitating trade and speeding up turnaround at the country’s borders by moving towards a completely electronic process, according to general manager of software provider Easyclear, Michael Henning.

A major step forward has been the implementation of the Reporting of Conveyances and Goods (RCG) programme – which has just been launched – requiring all cargo reporters to submit reports to Sars electronically.

Henning also believes the requirement for a Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) number on each export consignment will have a significant impact on
cross-border trade. If export proceeds received by the exporter’s bank do not match a UCR number there will be delays.

Another significant development will be the first customs-to-customs exchange of information in the Southern African Customs Union which will soon be piloted by South Africa with Swaziland.

From a company perspective, Easyclear this year launched a new web-based product which allows the customer to complete all customs declaration and clearance information from anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection, “allowing you do business in your pocket”. The product has already gone live for some of the software provider’s roadfreight border clients and will eventually be implemented nationally.

Henning said that implementation of the RCG programme would have no adverse effect on cross border road freight for those who were already compliant. According to Sars executive – Customs & Excise Centre of Excellence, Beyers Theron, 89% of road freight operators are already RCG compliant.

“However, those who are not reporting and are not compliant will be negatively affected in that they will experience severe delays as they will be processed at the back of the queue,” said Henning. “In addition, it will become financially constraining as they will also incur penalties if not compliant by August this year.”

He added that although significant steps had been taken to speed up cross-border trade, several challenges still remained. There were an unnecessarily high number of stops and inspections carried out by customs officials on exports at the borders and hauliers and
transporters had reported that lengthy processing of queries around these stops had negatively impacted turnaround times at the borders, he said.

“When a transporter offers something like an overnight express delivery option for cross-border cargo, the turnaround time is usually around two days,” he said. “But delays caused by the high rate of stops and inspections have turned this into five days.

“This is a huge loss of revenue for road freight exporters as a premium is being charged for a service which technically cannot be delivered due to unnecessary external issues.”

Additionally, he said that while 3G data communication had helped to
mitigate the lack of infrastructure in the southern African region, data costs were still exceptionally high.

“Nevertheless, data costs are dropping and are expected to be brought down even further following investigations by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, the Competition Commission and other regulators into the high cost of communication services in South and southern Africa,” added Henning.

According to the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Siyabonga Cwele, the reason for high roaming costs in
the Southern African Development Community is the fact that the communications industry remains highly concentrated, with very few new entrants into the sector. In a bid to reduce the cost of communication and redress market dominance and control in the country, the department intends to introduce the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill later this year.