Adopting Flexible Solutions to Deal with COVID-19

9:11:34 AM | 11/3/2022

2021 started with the fourth outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic - a major challenge to the customs industry. However, with a sense of high responsibility and determination to tackle difficulties with flexible solutions, the Long An Customs Department achieved higher budget revenue collection than the target in 2021.

Top priority for pandemic prevention and customs clearance

Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Huan, Director of the Long An Customs Department, said that last year, the complicated development of the COVID-19 pandemic in Long An province and in the country as a whole adversely affected the business operations of enterprises. Many reduced, suspended and dissolved their operations due to weak consumer markets, insufficient input supplies and insufficient workers. This seriously affected the performance of political tasks, budget collection and payment.

Anticipating difficulties in fulfilling budget collection and payment targets assigned by the Ministry of Finance and the General Department of Customs in 2021, the Long An Customs Department soon worked out solutions to budget collection and delegated tasks to its affiliates for synchronous and drastic implementation to facilitate trade and prevent budget leakage. Specifically, the department applied a modern customs management process to create the most favorable business conditions while ensuring strict regulatory supervision and management of revenue sources. It also implemented solutions to increase revenue and prevent revenue loss, and arranged experienced employees to work in busy areas and facilitate quick customs clearance of goods.

Given complicated pandemic developments, the Long An Customs Department always assigned top priority to pandemic prevention and clearance of imported and exported goods. It strictly implemented COVID-19 prevention measures, informed employees, their relatives and the business community to adopt preventive measures to avoid pandemic contagion in the workplace. The department arranged employees, no more than 50% of the total, to work online, applied personal preventive procedures like health status declaration, check-in and body temperature checks when entering and leaving the workplace; and told its employees to strictly observe regulations on disease prevention. Employees working in Tien Giang and Ben Tre provinces had to strictly follow the instructions of the Provincial People's Committee and perform medical declarations as required.

Its border units strengthened coordination with relevant forces in patrolling and controlling activity to prevent and combat smuggling, trade fraud, illegal transport of goods across borders, and averted illegal border crossings; closely inspected and supervised imported, exported and transited goods to facilitate the purchase, sale and exchange by border residents to avoid commodity backlogs at border gates.

For customs clearance procedures performed on the VNACCS/VCIS system and online public service platforms, its employees on duty checked documents on the customs electronic data processing system, handled them on the online public service system without any direct contact with declarants. In case material documents had to be presented, they were sent by email in the form of attachments or delivered by the postal service. Paperwork was minimized; 24/7 electronic import and export tax payment through the banking system was encouraged; physical inspection of goods was jointly coordinated to facilitate clearance during lockdown and social distancing periods. The department intensified information collection and risk assessment to take timely measures to strictly manage the delivery of goods for storage. Administrative procedures under its authority were carried out via online public services and public postal/postal services.

With many flexible response solutions, in 2021, the flow of imports and exports via local border gates managed by the Long An Customs Department was smooth. As a result, from January 1 to December 22, 2021, the department carried out customs clearance procedures for US$16.9 billion of imports and exports, up 8% over 2020, of which the export value reached US$9.2 billion, down 0.6% and the import value amounted at US$7.7 billion, up 20.4%. The taxable value was US$2.2 billion, up 53% over 5 years ago. This was one of the reasons for its budget revenue growth in 2021.

By overcoming existing difficulties, the Long An Customs Department achieved budget revenue of more than VND5,201.4 billion as of December 20, 2021, a year on year growth of 55%, equal to 150.8% of the target assigned by the Ministry of Finance, and 141.4% of the target assigned by the General Department of Customs. For bad debts, the department drastically implemented measures to recover, handle and complete all targets by May 2021. These outstanding results will be an important stepping stone for it to obtain higher achievements in 2022.

Aligning administrative reform with customs modernization

To facilitate import and export, the Long An Customs Department has actively adopted consistent solutions for administrative reform, customs modernization, and governance innovation to make the business environment fairer, more open, more convenient and more transparent in recent years, thus reducing the time and cost of regulatory compliance for people and businesses in the customs field. The sector’s information technology system has ensured smooth, clean, strong, modern, effective and efficient operation; built up a strong force of qualified, capable and competent customs officers to meet working requirements; provided information on 100% of customs procedures, related legal documents, professional instruction notices and databases; and received and answered online queries raised by people and businesses on its website.

At the same time, the Long An Customs Department has also strengthened the effective application of information technology and modern equipment in key customs management areas such as customs clearance, tax payment, commodity management at port, risk management, post-customs clearance inspection and violation settlement. Especially, the VNACCS/VCIS automatic customs clearance system automatically handled and completed customs procedures in 1-3 seconds and satellite IT systems located at the General Department of Customs were monitored and operated stably around the clock to ensure security and smooth service of import and export clearance.

Given increasing workload, which expands 8-10% on average in trade value and declaration forms, amid unchanged personnel, successful customs modernization and capable personnel to access advanced technology for industrialization and modernization requirements are key driving forces for rapid and sustainable development. On that basis, the department always focuses on developing high-quality professional human resources to meet modern technological integration into import and export. This process has successfully enabled smart, modern, professional, cultured and friendly reforms to enhance development, integrity and service for people and complete all assigned tasks.

According to Director Nguyen Ngoc Huan, all employees are currently standardized politically and professionally for their working positions, as well as meeting standards applied by the General Department of Customs. Modern technology, professional employees and effective cooperation of the business community will help the department accomplish all objectives of administrative reform, customs modernization and trade facilitation towards building e-government. “Although the road ahead is difficult and challenging, all employees of the Long An Customs Department are determined to fulfill all tasks assigned by the Ministry of Finance and the General Department of Customs to help increase local budget revenue,” he emphasized.

By Cong Luan, Vietnam Business Forum