The government has defended the Integrated Customs Management System(iCMS) being implemented at the port of Mombasa by the Kenya Revenue Authority(KRA) in efforts to seal tax cheats and make trade processes seamless.
EAC Principal Secretary in the Ministry of East African Community and regional development Kevit Desai said the iCMS system at the port will bring transformational change hence benefiting both importers and the government.
Desai however, acknowledged the inconveniences brought about by the new system saying there is need for cooperation among key sector players.
“Indeed there is considerable frustration and bitterness, we as government do realize that changes and transformation hugely disrupts existing operations and it is for this reason that the ability for government and private sector partner to cooperate and ensure that policies made are beneficial to all,” said Desai defending the system saying it will double investments for both government and private sector.
Desai added that Kenya will capitalize on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s role as the Chairman of the East African Community(EAC) to ensure Kenyans can do business with ease within the region.
President Uhuru took over from his Rwandan outgoing counterpart Paul Kagame who took over the leadership in February 2019.At the same time Dr. Peter Mutuku Mathuki from Kenya was appointed as the new Secretary-General of the Community for a 5-year non-renewable term.
Stake holders drawn from the shippers council of East Africa, Kenya Transporters Association (KTA),Kenya Private sector Association (KPA) ,Kenya ship agents Association, Kenya National Chamber of commerce and Industry (KNCCI),Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KMA) are now calling upon President Uhuru to push for a region wide clearance system that is harmonized to facilitate movement of cargo along the Northern-corridor.
They have listed biting disparities in transportation costs, systems failures at the Mombasa port, slowness in harmonization and adoption of EAC transportation regulation standards for example the EAC axle load regulations as key challenges.
“I think we need to make use of this opportunity given to us by making sure that the government eradicates bottlenecks that have hampered regional trade. We have a lot of unfriendly systems that have been dragging us behind,” said Auni Bhaiji,Bollore Transport and logistics regional director development and external affairs East Africa.
The new iCMS system is meant to replace the 13-year old Simba system and according to cargo importers its implementation is causing constant delays while clearing imports at the port of Mombasa and now want it fully harmonized with other regional systems to ease business.
Kenya Transporters Association, Executive Director, Peter Ombok said the government should review the cost of transport by the standard Gauge Railway haulage to make it the only choice among the traders. The players are proposing for a reduction of rates of cargo haulage to bring uniformity.
“Increase in containers detention fees as a result of delays occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic has taken toll on us as transporters, we are also calling for a similar Covid-19 system to also facilitate movement of cargo across-Border through road transport, “said KTA chairman Peter Ombok adding that currently as it stands it takes one month for a truck to reach Southern Sudan.