iCMS a game changer in EAC trade facilitation

In Summary

• iCMS integrates and harmonises Customs processes into one system.

Acting Treasury CS Ukur Yatani (Second, Left), KRA board chairman Francis Muthaura and Commissioner General James Mburu during a past event.
Acting Treasury CS Ukur Yatani (Second, Left), KRA board chairman Francis Muthaura and Commissioner General James Mburu during a past event.

The Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) Sea cargo regime went live at the Port of Mombasa, marking one of the successful modernization steps in the East African Community trade facilitation.

iCMS integrates and harmonises Customs processes into one system not only to enhance efficacy in Customs and Border Control operations but also to conform to best global Customs processes.  The go live of the sea cargo iCMS regime was marked by the clearance of the first consignment of 43,400.835 metric tonnes of clinker.

The Vessel transporting the consignment, MV Ptolomeos, docked at the Portof Mombasa on Saturday, 3rd August, 2019 and was offloaded to its destination. The consignment was cleared automatically in the system, after the importer’s clearing agent, Express Shipping and Logistics (ESL), lodged entries in the system and paid duty of Ksh65 million before the arrival of the cargo.The biggest win for KRA in the implementation of iCMS is enhanced revenue collection at the ports of entry.

This will be achieved through enhanced operational efficiency in Customs processes. iCMS is also set to reduce the cargo dwell time for compliant imports at thePort of Mombasa since the system does not require human intervention at the document processing centre, unlike the Simba system.The scenario presented with the use of iCMS is the automation of previously manual Customs processes like Risk Management and Valuation. These manual processes are sometimes shrouded by subjectivity but going forward,they will be eliminated, reducing officer discretion and allowing objectivity and integrity of processes.

Customs revenues are therefore bound to go higher once the system is fully implemented. Instances of under-declaration and mis-declaration of cargo are also expected to reduce significantly, causing a great impact on revenues.Compliance levels are also expected to go high.The rollout of iCMS is being implemented in phases. The clearance module forair cargo went live on 10th May, 2019, while the piloting rollout for land and sea cargo began on 7th July, 2019. So far, the system is performing to KRA’s projected expectations.

KRA expects to have these functions operating fully in due course. The iCMS process is well thought out with all existing Customs Processes developed into modules in the iCMS to make up one mega system. iCMS has 43 modules, which are used in the management of cargo and people. Some ofthe modules in iCMS are; clearance, manifests, risk management, bond management, exemptions and warehousing.

The benefits iCMS presents to all players, KRA included, cannot beoveremphasised. Industry players such as importers and exporters are set tobenefit substantially once iCMS is fully implemented as the system willenhance faster clearance of cargo at the ports of entry, while for KRA there ismassive reduction of human interventions in cargo clearance hence revenueleakages are sealed.

KRA projects a 60 per cent reduction in cargo clearance time, which will translate to decongestion at the ports as well as faster delivery of goods to their various destinations. This in turn will facilitate trade not only in Kenya but also in the East African bloc. The system further enables tracking of cargo in real time from the port to the final destination. Consequently, cases of cargo diversion, which cause massive losses to cargo owners, will be a thing of the past.

KRA embarked on a journey to bring iCMS on board with a view to address the shortcomings posed by the previous system, Simba. Simba has been running on multiple stand-alone sub systems thereby impeding the operational efficiency desired. KRA was handling Customs business processes on the Simba System since inception in the year 2005. The system was later enhanced in 2014 to deliver as per the market demands back then. Simba had reached its optimal enhancement stage hence the need for a more robust system.

In the piloting and rollout of iCMS, KRA has engaged various stakeholders who are directly or indirectly touched by Customs process in the development of iCMS. The stakeholders include but are not limited to Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA), DHL, importers, exporters and shippers. KRA has also been in engagement with State Partners such as the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), Kenya Airports Authority (KAA),Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), as well as regional development partners such as The Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA).

KRA is upbeat about the system and has sensitized stakeholders countrywide ensuring that they have information on how the system operates. Given the nature of their business and the international clientele they deal with, majority of the stakeholders mentioned earlier already operate on automated systems.Therefore, they shall not be required to automate their systems. They will only link their systems to iCMS for compatibility with KRA system. The link up will be a cost effective mechanism which will save the stakeholders the cost of inputting data manually in their systems as it has been the case.

KRA is passionate about modernisation of Customs and Border Control systems to enhance trade across EAC. So far, Regional Electronic Tracking System (RECTS), is one of the successful initiatives in sealing revenue loopholes. RECTS was implemented by Kenya Revenue Authority in partnership with the revenue administrations of the partner states of Uganda and Rwanda and seeks in the mid-term, to rope in all EAC states and outlying countries in the region.

The writer is the Commissioner Customs and Border Control, KRA