AEO: Taxman's silver bullet to enhance port efficiency

Truck on a weighing machine at Mariakani weighbridge. The number of trucks transporting cargo from the port of Mombasa has doubled. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

More Kenyan companies could benefit from faster clearance of their cargo at Lamu and Mombasa ports if the taxman goes ahead with fresh plans to include them in the Authorized Economic Operators (AEO) programme.

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) launched the AEO programme in the 2007/08 financial year with only 12 companies on board.

Today, data from KRA shows there are 325 accredited Kenyan companies in the programme.

Speaking during the taxpayer’s day held in Mombasa, KRA Commissioner General Humprey Wattanga said plans are underway to increase this number.

Under the AEO programme, a select group of companies with strong import-export systems are given an easy time when their cargo is being cleared. There isn’t much time-wasting scrutiny of their cargo and clearance documents by government agencies since their systems are already trusted.

Importers and exporters under the AEO initiative account for about 30 per cent of the customs revenue collected in the country.

The programme has enabled reducing cargo clearance time from a span of between eight and 12 days to three to four days.

Mr Wattanga said with more companies under AEO, efficiency at the ports will go up will go up. He noted that the programme will support the government’s initiatives to facilitate trade.

“These initiatives benefit all stakeholders and promote global commerce,” he said. President William Ruto presided over the event. Also present was the KRA chairman Anthony Mwaura.

Wattanga noted that KRA was equally committed to adopting cutting-edge technology to improve and enhance service delivery at ports of entry.

 We are currently upgrading the use of non-intrusive inspection of baggage and cargo at all points of entry to ensure that restricted goods are screened well and tax paid,”he added.

He observed that KRA was swiftly pursuing optimised systems integration with Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) to meet revenue targets.

Mr Mwaura said through collaboration, KRA has held engagements with stakeholders on various customs processes to facilitate trade.

 “We are also committed to seamless facilitation of all taxpayers at all ports of entry, including borders, the port and airport,” he said.

He said KRA was continuously improving its operations and was in the process of upgrading the use of technology to expedite baggage handling at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and all other ports.

“This will ensure prohibited and restricted goods are screened for the safety of all Kenyans,” he explained, adding that KRA will enhance voluntary compliance by taxpayers.

President Ruto directed KRA to enhance its revenue mobilisation capacity and taxpayer compliance through service-oriented and citizen-centric methods of facilitating voluntary compliance in keeping with the government’s fundamental commitment to decriminalize enterprise.

 He explained this was the spirit in which KRA recently recruited specially trained revenue service assistants.

He said KRA must therefore continuously demonstrate a singular commitment to new service-oriented values and signal a departure from the abuses and excesses of previous times, which only served to elicit resentment and encourage evasion while facilitating wastage, theft, embezzlement, and other corrupt practices.

 “KRA now knows that it is possible to be courteous, kind, and gentle to taxpayers and at the same time become even more effective and efficient in tax collection. This applies to all persons in public authority when dealing with members of the public,” he said.

He said KRA has been undertaking reforms in this direction, which include the use of technology to integrate the taxpayer and revenue administration systems to allow real-time, automatic exchange of actionable data.

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