ASYCUDA World Implementation Project
Customs and Excise Department

The Problem

Before the implementation of ASYCUDA World, the trading community (comprising of the business community – importers/exporters) complained about a number of issues regarding the operations involved in the clearance of goods. Most of the inputs for business operations in Grenada are imported. Some of the issues that contributed to the problematic situation prior to the implementation of ASYCUDA World include: 1.the delays experienced to clear goods. 2. A high level of examinations conducted on all importation due to the absence of a systematic Risk Management System. 3. Staff was not deployed in a manner that would bring maximum benefit to both the Department in terms of efficiencies and increased revenue collections and the traders in terms of speed with the lodgement and clearance of Customs declarations. 4. Difficulty storing and retrieving Customs data. 5. Inability to view, assess and make timely decisions regarding ship manifest prior to arrival. 6. Redundancies, duplications of efforts and inconsistencies with regards to the procedures for clearing goods. 7. The operating hours 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the main ports and Headquarters was not convenient to the trading community 8. The ability to link with other agencies data bases was not possible. 9. Less transparency in terms of the Department’s ability to trace the activities of officers and other users of Customs system. 10. Increasing levels of customers’ complaints due to limited standardisation of the procedures utilised at the various points of entry.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The initiative or solution to the problems described above is the successful implementation of ASYCUDA World at Grenada Customs and Excise Department. This new system has drastically changed Customs operations and that of the trading community. To start with the implementation was done through a World Bank funded Project which outlined some baseline indicators. Upon completion these indicators were assessed and used as the measurement for the success of the Project. The achievements due to the implementation include: 1. least 70% of commercial cargo consignments are released by Customs within 1 working days after the arrival of the goods. 2. At least 80% of commercial cargo is now released by Customs without intervention. 3. Updated standard operating procedures available for the staff and trading community and end-users manuals were developed and distributed 4. Trade data extractions are readily available to the National Statistics Department. 5. Improved control of legitimate trade and faster clearance processing (Risk criteria are applied to targeted shipments and a new Post Clearance Audit Unit was established and is fully functional.6. A minimum 5% effectiveness ratio in selectivity criteria (infractions detected versus entries selected). 7. At least 5% increase in revenue collections was realised after the first six months of implementation. 8. The percentage of consignments subject to physical examination reduced from 60% to 30%. 9. There was an increased in the number of staff trained in the area of professional Customs auditing from 0 to 10. 10. Improved client perception of Customs operations based on independent survey done. 11. Traders can now submit their declarations on line at any time since the system is available 24 hours a day. 12. Persons can now make payment at any Customs office. Provisions are made for traders to apply for licence on line and make payment for the licence at the Customs without having to physically go the Ministry of Trade. 13. Enhanced capacity of staff and management and even other users of the system due to the training emitted as a result of the Project. These achievements as a result of the implementation of the system brought substantial time savings, predictability and confidence to all aspects of trade and also limit the room for persons (traders and customs officers alike) to manoeuvre and circumvent the system. Generally the implementation of ASYCUDA World had a positive impact on the trading environment in Grenada and all traders (importers as well as exporters) along with the Brokers Association, the Staff of the Customs Department and the Government on a whole. The Customs Department and the country on a whole are now in a better position to facilitate trade and operate in accordance with international trade standards.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The proposal for the implementation of this system came from a number of sources including sources including the World Bank, the Customs Department, the Brokers Association, UNCTAD and members of the trading communities. The Project was implemented with technical expertise provided by the vendor of ASYCUDA World, UNCTAD who had their Technical Advisor on site for a period of two years. The system was configured and tailored to local specifications by the local IT Team under the guidance of the UNCTAD Advisor.

The general management of the Implementation was done through a project office specifically set up with a Project Manager and an Administrative Officer. From the Customs end a Project Coordinator was assigned to the project along with three functional and three IT Officers. There was also a Project Stirring Committee who had the responsibility for general management oversight and making policy decisions. The Project was financed by the World Bank and the EU with counterpart funding provided by the Government of Grenada.

With regards to the stakeholders, a number of agencies and institution played a role in the process. They include: UNCTAD the vendor of the system, the World Bank, EU and Government of Grenada (Project Coordinating Unit) for financing the Project, The Grenada Ports Authority, Grenada Airport Authority, Grenada Postal Corporation, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Bureau of Standards, Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the Inland Revenue and Statistics Departments. All these agencies at some point will be able to utilise the system to provide services to the trading community. While not all of these agencies are fully utilising ASYCUDA World to perform their trading services to the public, the system is designed with the full capacity to do so and selected staff members from all these agencies were trained to use the system. This has allowed for greater cooperation with these other government agencies which has supported the Customs Department’s efforts to enhance compliance.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
In a general sense the initiative was conceptualised as part of the Customs Department’s Modernisation Programme. The Customs Department plays a significant role by contributing more than half of Government’s revenue. Therefore, it is critical that the Department operates effectively and efficiently thus improving the quality of service to traders mindful that trade facilitation is critical for growth in an open trade dependent economy as ours.

The main objectives of the initiative were to improve the efficiency of the Customs Department through modernising the administration of Customs. Specifically the focus was on 1. Reducing the transaction cost of Customs services, 2. Improving the collection yield and payment processing at Customs, 3. Improving risk management and enforcement to ensure the security and integrity of the system, 4. Increasing the speed of transaction through Customs for cargo clearance and release and 5. Improving the transparency of processes and functions.

In order to achieve those objectives three main strategies were employed 1. To Improve Customs systems and procedures – here the focus was on the development and implementation of modern, best practice procedures such as risk management and post clearance audits, 2. Upgrade the information technology – Here the focus was on the upgrade of the Department’s IT system from ASYCUDA 2.7 to ASYCUDA World to support the reengineering of the front end customs processes in accordance with best practices and 3. To build capacity of management and the general staff – here the focus was on establishing capacity for audit and valuation, training in ASYCUDA technical and functional systems to establish competence to install, configure and operate the system and also special attention was given to customer service training for all staff, we developed a customer service programme where a team of persons were identified and specially trained to provide continuous customer service training as identified and needed. In addition a customer service charter was developed and adopted by the Customs Department. Public Relations played a critical part in the successful implementation of the project. Customs officials made a number of appearances in the media in an effort to create awareness by the general public.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The Project was rolled out in five phases over a period of two years. The first phase – Mobilization and Prototype building
dealt with the signing of the contribution agreement, the mobilization of UNCTAD’s officials, securing of the Project Office and local project team with some foundational technical training, preparation of the project work plan, establishment of base lines, awareness sessions were held with both customs and trade personnel, procurement of some IT infrastructure and review of the legislation.

During the second phase – Pilot Site Implementation for Cargo Control
dealt with the implementation strategy being defined, pilot site renovation/configurations was done, installation of IT infrastructure (networking, equipment), training for end users started, ASYCUDA World testing at the pilot site and also in that phase, ASYCUDA World operations went live but only for the Manifest functions.

During phase three – Pilot Site Implementation Clearance Process.
At that time there was the installation of additional IT infrastructure, additional training for end users and more testing at the pilot site for the other modules of the system.

During the fourth phase – Roll out / full deployment.
Here all the customs sites were configured to accommodate the new processes and system operations, Installation of additional IT infrastructure, more training for staff and Live operations of the other modules at the pilot site and more testing at all other sites

During the fifth and final stage- Consolidation and sustainability/support. Here ASYCUDA World operations went live in all sites, System’s technical documentation, implementation of IT contingency and recovery procedures and preparation of final reports.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The main obstacles had to do mainly with timely disbursement of funds from both the world bank through the Project Coordinating Unit and the Government of Grenada through the Ministry of Finance. This caused delays in the smooth flow of the implementation process due to the Project’s inability to secure essential equipment and other resources in a timely manner.

In an effort to overcome these obstacles adjustments were made to the original plan and some activities were brought forward for example, the training for end users. The Project team was able to improvise in some areas in order to complete some of the activities given the financial constraint for example; the Project Office was used as the main training facility by making adjustments and cutting down on officers operating space. Other departmental resources were also used to overcome some the obstacles and ultimately reducing the impact it could of had on the successful implementation of the Project.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The initiative was mainly financed through a loan from the World Bank and counterpart funding from the Government of Grenada and European Union in the tune of US$0.853 million dollars.

The main technical support came from the vendor of the ASYCUDA World, UNCTAD. A technical Advisor was assigned to the project full time and a number of other consultants were involved in providing the relevant training in other technical and functional areas.

With regards to the human resources, the Project Team comprised of a Project Manager who was also responsible for other areas since this initiative was one component of a wider project which saw the implementation of four major components all together. The Project Manager was assisted by an Administrative Assistant and also a Project Coordinator (PC) was assigned from the Customs Department to oversee this component. The Customs Project Team which carried out the initiative comprised of six other persons along with the Project Coordinator and the UNCTAD full time Technical Advisor. Of the six persons assigned to the project, three formed a technical team to build in-house capacity for the continuity and maintenance of the system. The other three formed a functional team, versed in customs operations to advise the technical persons on the procedures after conducting the necessary reviews, so that the re engineering process will be successful. In other words the technology was configured to support the most efficient procedure and process and not the other way around where the technology was developed and the Department now has to organised itself around it.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Budgetary provisions through the Ministry of Finance will have to be made every year for the maintenance of the system. The system makes provision for linkage with several other Government Institutions to provide better service to the traders and as a result the demands and support from stakeholders will create added pressure for the adequate maintenance of the system. ASYCUDA World has a Human Resource Management module which can significantly improve the way in which human resources is managed in the Department. The intension is to share the benefits of the module with the other Ministries within the Public Service to bring about greater Human Resource Management efficiencies.

Therefore the formation of the Department’s MIS Unit is critical for the sustainability and maintenance of the system. The Unit will conduct periodic functional reviews to identify problems and to spot changes that are necessary for further improvement in the provision of better service to the trading community. The Unit allowed for the creation of new positions to ensure that the relevant skills are available to adequately maintain the system. Regular training including refresher courses will be conducted to maintain the required capacity and competence necessary for the maintenance of the system. One of the positions created includes a webmaster to maintain the Department’s website where all the information is shared with the public, thus increasing customer knowledge and awareness and ultimately encouraging compliance.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
In a general sense the successful implementation of the initiative has a positive impact in that there was improvement in the level of customer service delivered by the Department. As a result of the implementation of ASYCUDA World and its ability to be linked to other relevant Government agencies, customers can now conduct most of the activities on line without having to physically visit these other agencies. This initiative has lead to the centralisation of a number of activities towards the creation of a one stop shop facility. This has resulted in significant time and cost savings, increased convenience and reduced complaints leading to greater customer satisfaction. There is evidence of increased activities by other government agencies e.g. the Bureau of Standard – they have experienced increases in the number of inspections that they do in a given period.

In addition other impact includes more efficient and timely flow of information for evidence based policy decisions that can allow for added benefits in terms of proving better service to customers; greater sharing of information again leading to more timely decision making; Increase in revenue collection as a result of the efficiencies of the system and the improvement in the procedures and processes for clearing goods and persons; and facilitates the introduction of other modern Customs Management tools such as Risk Management and Post Clearance and Internal Auditing creating the avenue for better management at customs and increased opportunities for compliant traders to be further facilitated in the clearance process.

Finally It has resulted in lower administrative cost of collecting customs revenue and lower trade transaction cost for private sector which should have a positive impact on profits thus resulting in reduced cost to the consumers; The building of closer relationships with stakeholders for example the Ports Authority and the Bureau of Standards and the Brokers Association and The image of the Department received positive reviews from customers thus boosting the moral of the staff which in turn can result in increased productivity.

With regards to the lessons learned, it is always key to have a well developed implementation plan in place, that way the project can be monitored and adjustments can be made accordingly to ensure the delays that are unavoidable do not have a huge negative impact on the success of the project.

It is our view also that Projects of that nature are guided by a Project Stirring Committee to assist with timely policy decisions that can affect the success of the project

It is also important that the Consultants assigned to the Project are competent and flexible to accommodate changes and work around obstacles that may come up along the way. Consultants like the one assigned to the ASYCUDA World Implementation Project are valuable assets and do contribute significantly to the success of projects like these.

Finally projects that are funded in part by the local Government should ensure that the money are placed in a separate account so that it can be accessed easily and in a timely manner thus avoiding delays due to funding supply

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Customs and Excise Department
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Lyndonna Hillaire-Marshall
Title:   Mrs.  
Telephone/ Fax:   473 440 2240 (t) 473 440 5038
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   The Carenage
Postal Code:  
City:   St. George's
State/Province:   St. George
Country:   Grenada

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