WALVIS BAY: Clearing agents were left disappointed here on Friday when they failed to have their concerns addressed in a gathering with officials from the Ministry of Finance’s customs and excise department.
The gathering was called after clearing agents expressed their unhappiness with a ban which prohibits them from using third party guarantees and bonds as security when moving goods, which came into force on 24 July this year.
The Deputy Director of Customs and Excise in Walvis Bay, Yoolokeni Haihambo, shattered the expectations of the more than 70 anxious clearing agents when she indicated that the gathering here on Friday was not called to provide answers on the questions posted by the clearing agents, but would only serve to discuss and clarify the issue on the misuse of guarantees and bonds.
The Commissioner of Customs and Excise in the Ministry of Finance, Bevan Simataa was not present as he was in South Africa at the time, and Deputy Director of Trade Facilitation, Hans Garoeb was therefore directed to note their concerns.
Amongst a number of other concerns, the clearing agents wanted to know why the Ministry of Finance did not consult them when “a decision of such magnitude” was taken and implemented.
“We were supposed to be consulted before such a decision was made by the government,” the spokesperson of the clearing agents, Lunomukomo Taanyanda, indicated.
Garoeb responded by saying that they were not mandated to answer questions, but only to register concerns, which only served to increase the frustration felt by the clearing agents.
The decision, which affected the movement of transit goods from the Namibia Port Authority (Namport) by the agents, came into effect on 24 July this year.
Last month, in a letter addressed to clearing agents, bonded warehouses and companies in Walvis Bay, Garoeb stated that guarantees and bonds may only be used by principals registered under the said guarantee or bond, meaning that permission should not be granted to other agents and companies to use such guarantees.
About 76 SMEs have been affected by the ban. Their work entails clearing any goods coming through Namport, and which are destined for land-locked countries such as Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which do not have ports.
Taanyanda in an earlier interview told Nampa it is a very costly and time-consuming process for the small companies to acquire their own bonds, which start at N.dollars 350 000, hence their reliance on bigger companies.
Garoeb on Friday explained that the decision to ban the clearing agents from using third party guarantees and bonds to clear their consignments was taken because the customs and excise department experienced difficulties such as locating agents who had unpaid debts.
“It is illegal to rent guarantees and bonds and it is the duty of Customs to protect and secure revenue,” he said.
Local English daily The Namibian reported last week that Deputy Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein explained that the decision to ban clearing agents from using the guarantees and bonds of third parties was taken to protect the taxpayer.
Schlettwein indicated that Government stood to lose out on duties and customs through the practice, and said the taxpayer would have ended up having to pick up the tab.
The clearing agents further stated that consignments are piling up at Namport as the ban has prevented them from being collected.
They said the problem will be exacerbated when various vessels containing about 7 000 vehicles, which are expected over the next weeks, arrive.
Taanyanda noted that the clearing agents want the ban to be nullified and said they want feedback on the matter by Monday, as the next vessel is expected this coming Wednesday and will be offloading about 900 vehicles.
Garoeb noted the clearing agents’ concerns, but could not assure them that their grievances would be addressed by Monday.