The Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) has lauded the Indigenous Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association (ICCAFA) for its resilience to grow its membership in the 11 years of its existence while also pushing that more members attain required levels of professional practice.
Delivering his address as Guest Speaker at the association’s annual conference in Mangochi, Commissioner Customs & Excise Fredrick Mpeusa said MRA looks forward to advance the cordial relationship with ICCAFA.
“I stand before you colleagues to congratulate each one of you for the vibrant membership that has seen full establishment of the Indigenous Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agents here in Malawi. Achieving such progress is time consuming and it has taken ICCAFA years of dedication and hard work to attain the status, which gives the Malawi Revenue Authority all sense of pride since together we have achieved various major aspects of our roles.
“These achievements range from ensuring that Government revenue is collected, growing professionally able and effective clearing and forwarding agents and creating an enabling environment where there is more skills uptake in the clearing and forwarding sector by indigenous Malawians,” Mpeusa said.
The commissioner went on to emphasise that the three areas highlighted are very commendable and it is the wish of MRA to always work hand-in-hand with ICCAFA and its membership.
“Using this base is what will lead us into an advanced approach to further grow our relationship cordially as we forge ahead in line with this year's ICCAFA Conference theme of "Customs Broker's Role in the Supply Chain".
“Clearing agents are very crucial in any economy as they are responsible for, not only movement and safe delivery of goods, but also compliance with all set regulations from one territory to another. This is in addition to taking a huge role in the timely facilitation of legal trade,” he said.
The commissioner said MRA is very committed to improve the capacity of clearing and forwarding agents through training, thereby boosting the industry’s knowledge and technical abilities for the betterment of taxpayer services.
He said MRA has structures that ensure effective Customs operations and also provide clearing agents an enabling environment for their jobs. Some of the structures highlighted included the Inland Examination Centres, the recent upgrade of ASYCUDA World and the coming in of One Stop Border Station concept in Mchinji with two almost ready in Mwanza and Dedza while construction of another one at Songwe is underway.
Commissioner Mpeusa then urged ICCAFA to fully implement its mission to promote sanity, unity and professionalism in customs clearing and freight forwarding industry.
“MRA is there to work with you jointly to also achieve our core value to uphold the highest ethical standards of honesty and moral principles. The Authority has all the trust that integrity is within the realms of "Customs Broker's Role in the Supply Chain" theme.
“I am saying this because it is sad that we are still noting that there is low integrity by some clearing agents who are busy working with importers to defraud Government of the much-needed revenues. Some are even allowing usage of middlemen, ‘madobadoba’ to entice MRA officers and vice versa. These malpractices must end and we must work together to end them because they are not only counterproductive since the consequences on individuals perpetuating them, once found are very dire.
“By the end of the day, we want to see improvement in your work as clearing agents and freight forwarders by being assured of standard output through quality declarations and professional conduct in the way you discharge your duties,” he said.
ICCAFA president Vusi Chirwa said the association started in 2012 with 5 member companies and now the membership has grown to 60 companies.
“ICCAFA came into existence to protect the interests of local clearing and forwarding agents when some players in the industry thought of pushing us out of business. We have proven that we are here for our country as we work to achieve our vision to be the most reliable and influential private entity in the facilitation of trade in Malawi, with an objective to collectively strengthen the capacity of the indigenous customs brokers and freight forwarders and empower them with the required,” Chirwa said.
Concurring with the MRA Commissioner and ICCAFA president, the Reserve Bank of Malawi Deputy Governor William Matambo said the role of the Customs Brokers in supply Chain Management is, beyond question, extremely important as they ensure that goods move smoothly through international borders while adhering to legal requirements and mitigating supply chain risks
In his official opening remarks, the deputy governor said Customs brokers are a key stakeholder in the supply chain as it is a huge diverse network of companies and people that are involved in the production and delivery of various goods and services.
“I would therefore place a challenge on you customs brokers to team up with all relevant stakeholders, which include the Malawi Revenue Authority, Reserve Bank of Malawi, Ministry of Trade & Industry, Ministry of Finance and Competition & Fair-Trading Commission to ensure that we have a seamless supply chain for the good of our economy and country. We have a responsibility to build Malawi through the roles we play in various capacities,” Matambo said.
Other speakers at the annual conference were Ministry of Trade and Industry Principal Secretary Francis Zhuwawo, Competition and Fair Trading Commission Chief Consumer Analyst Augustine Nyirenda.
BY HENRY MCHAZIME