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Integrity at customs, a prerequisite for clearing agents

Clearing agents are customs agents helping business operators in clearing of their goods at borders by filing for them the required documents as well as submitting to verification officers for clearance. They are valuable and important people considering their work which both benefits the government through customs to get taxes and duties as well as helping the business people quickening their operations. However, the issue of corruption and lack of integrity occur in different times and places which raise suspicion of who among the players at borders brought that malpractice, a criminal and shameful act of corruption. Before customs officers are deployed to different customs posts, they undergo training on integrity at customs as they have passed entry exam in Rwanda Revenue Authority. On top of their qualification, skills in handling customs issues as justified by their academic papers, integrity is a pre-requisite quality to have to be a blessing to the nation as well as the institution. Skills can become vain if the attitude is a dust, and that is why Rwanda Revenue Authority has a department in charge of quality assurance which deals with integrity of staff as well as audits. Customs are busy places dealing with multiple amount of money of business people. The importers want to advance and expand their businesses by gaining as much as they can. They are of great benefit to the nation as the revenues collection come from their business operations. As they earn more, the country also collects more. But all are regulated by laws, fixing imports duties, taxes according to the tariffs mainly of international scale. The customs officer is there to verify, in fact that’s why they are called ‘Verification Officers’ as they need to check all the customs documents and make sure they are genuine before a go ahead is granted. The deal between clearing agent and the verification officer is very crucial to the national revenue collection. Both have a significant role to play and are required to have a high level of integrity, an attitude which is totally against bribes and corruptions. They all serve the busy clients, those who many times need a quick service, but some of them also need a reduction, under evaluation, tax avoidance and tax evasion. Both verification officer and clearing agent have ability to detect all of these attitudes and decide to serve earnestly or become the vessel of bad plans to the development of the nation. Some lack integrity due to temptation of getting money, as some business people may pledge rewards in case the undervaluation is made. Commissioner for Quality Assurance department, Felicien Mwumvaneza explained the reason to reject all these temptations related to money by reading the biblical verse in Luc 12:15 “Don’t be greedy! Owning a lot of things won’t make your life safe.” According to Raphael Tugirumuremyi, Commissioner for Customs Services, common malpractices among clearing agents include reduce tax, tax evasion, using forged documents, false declaration, using a single invoice for many times among others.  The tax administration says that they don’t insist too much on punishments but put much emphasis on awareness and education towards professionalism among clearing agents and other stakeholders.

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