Commissioner of Customs, Danville Walker, says the process to transform the Customs Department into an executive agency (EA) will get underway in the new financial year beginning April 1, with the transition to be completed within 18 to 24 months.
He informed that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, which has portfolio responsibility for the agency, still has to finalise and approve matters pertaining to the job descriptions and salary structures under the executive agency regime for the transition to begin.
“April 1 is the beginning of the transition year, that is, if we get the approval from the Ministry of Finance. Once that is so, we can begin that transition year, and we expect it will take about 18 months to two years,” Mr. Walker said on March 16 at a Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica (CBFFAJ)-organised forum at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Andrew.
“But it doesn’t have to be at the beginning of the fiscal year,…it could be June 1 or July 1…(but) we (at Customs) are ready with everything, ”he pointed out.
Noting that discussions towards the Department’s transformation have been ongoing since he assumed the position of Commissioner in 2008, Mr. Walker said several activities have been undertaken to this end including the development and submission of organisational and medium-term financing plans.
Additionally, he disclosed that the Department will shortly sign off on the contracts and job descriptions for the recruitment of some 10 to 12 senior officers into the new EA structure.
Mr. Walker explained that similar exercises will be undertaken for the Department’s other 1,100 employees for whom new job descriptions will have to be developed and interviews conducted to recruit them into the new organisation. "At the end of that process, (we will be) ready to be an executive agency," he assured.
In the meantime, Mr. Walker disclosed that discussions for the development of legislation to separate the Customs Department from the Tax Administration Department, and for Customs to report directly to the Ministry of Finance, are also being pursued.
"There is a Revenue Agency Act coming now, Semi Autonomous Revenue Agency (SARA) that will take Tax Administration out of Finance, take Customs out of Tax Administration, and put us (Customs) reporting directly to Finance," Mr. Walker informed.
By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter