At the invitation of the Vice-Chair of the region, Mr. Tom Moyane, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya attended the 22nd Governing Council hosted by the Uganda Revenue Authority in Kampala, Uganda, on 11 and 12 May 2017.
The meeting was chaired by Mr. Tom Moyane, Commissioner, South Africa Revenue Service and Vice-Chair of the East and Southern Africa region. Mr. Moyane acknowledged the important role played by the WCO in advancing capacity building activities in the region, and emphasized the need for Customs to engage in effective revenue collection and enhanced trade facilitation for legitimate trade.
Ms. Doris Akol, Commissioner General of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), welcomed delegates to her country and highlighted the substantial progress made in Uganda since a major reform process had begun some eight years ago. She emphasized the challenging and diverse role of Customs which now extended far beyond that of revenue collection, and consequently, required increased resources to continue to operate at an optimum level. Underlining the many synergies that exist between Customs and Tax, the Commissioner reiterated the need for both agencies, and indeed, other government agencies, to share information.
The Deputy Secretary of Treasury delivered a speech on behalf of the Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Hon. Matia Kasaija. The most important developments in the URA were highlighted in his address: the Electronic Cargo Tracking System; the ‘One Stop Shop’ initiative; the Electronic Single Window; the AEO Programme and a centralised document processing centre for better coordination on Customs clearance. Collectively, these initiatives had led to an increase in excess of 8% in exchequer receipts. The representative welcomed the work underway on cooperation between Tax and Customs and Illicit Financial Flows.
In his report as Vice-Chair of the ESA Region, Mr. Tom Moyane, SARS, recalled the discussions at the December 2016 Policy Commission and drew delegates’ attention to the notification of the accession of Kosovo to the WCO from the depository and the representations received from Serbia expressing disagreement and requesting that this decision be revoked.
Mr. Moyane also mentioned the imminent departure of Mr. Sergio Mujica, WCO Deputy Secretary General, adding that the Secretary General and the management team in the Secretariat would assume all the duties related to the role of Deputy Secretary General pending the election of his successor during the 2018 Council Sessions. Furthermore,he expressed his gratitude to the many donors active in the region for their commitment and support. Finally, an overview of the successes of South Africa’s two-year term as Vice-Chair of the region was presented.
Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya outlined the five main priority areas of work for the WCO Secretariat:
- Trade facilitation and the challenges and opportunities offered by the entry into force of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
- E-Commerce and its implications for revenue collection, control of goods and the protection of society as a result of the increase in trade of small packages.
- Security and the need to determine and consolidate the role of Customs in the fight against terrorism.
- Customs/Tax Cooperation, highlighting the need for a well-resourced Customs Administration, regardless of the structure adopted nationally.
Secretary General Mikuriya also outlined the work underway on Illicit Financial Flows. In addition, he stated that the issue of Performance Measurement should be pursued, an issue also identified by the ESA Vice-Chair, and welcomed the support by the Vice-Chair for the interim management measures proposed consequent on the departure of the Deputy Secretary General.
A presentation on governance was delivered, and delegates agreed that further discussion was not necessary, particularly as the Council had delivered a decision on this issue in 2016. Consequently, that decision needed to be respected, and the issue should not be revisited. Additional reports on the ROCB’s activities, the consultation with the private sector within the region, and the Finance and Audit Committee’s outcomes were delivered. A new Website for the region was formally launched by the dignitaries present. Additional topics also included the impact of the growth in e-Commerce, Customs/Tax cooperation, and combatting Illicit Financial Flows.
Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya also held bilateral meetings with H.E. Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda, Prime Minister of Uganda, Hon. Matia Kasaija, Minister of Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development as well as the URA. He also addressed staff engaged in trade facilitation and witnessed a demonstration of the Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS) that tracks goods in transit through the East African Community.
Dr. Mikuriya thanked the Uganda Revenue Authority for the warm welcome extended to delegates and the excellent logistical arrangements.