Tshwane, 26 January 2022 – The Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), Mr Edward Kieswetter, has committed the SARS Customs division to scale up digital transformation and to increase the use of data to improve the facilitation of trade, revenue collection and improve compliance by traders who import and export goods across South Africa’s borders.
Speaking on International Customs Day, which is held on 26 January every year, Mr Kieswetter added that digital transformation and the increased use of data was also necessary to combat the increased sophistication of organised crime and better manage the expanding volume and complexity of international trade.
The Commissioner reported that the Customs Modernisation Programme, which uses digital transformation and the use of data, has led to an improvement in the average case turn-around time on interventions by 22% as at December 2021; frontline interventions came down from an average of 109 hours in March 2020 to 38 hours as at December 2021, and reduced the stop rate for Authorised Economic Operators by 86% leading to savings in cost and time.
“We have improved our risk-based interventions to detect and deter illicit trade, by an average success rate of 54% by the end of December 2021, which has raised an additional R2-billion in revenue.
“As at December 2021, SARS Customs more than doubled the value of seizures compared to the previous year, from R1.5-billion to R3.5-billion, including narcotics, clothing and textiles.”
The SARS Commissioner said several other initiatives, built on increased use of data and expanding the data eco-system, were making significant progress as part of the SMART border concept.
“We are currently piloting the number plate recognition system at Beit Bridge with the help of key stakeholders such as the Freight Association and Technical Services Providers Association. More than 99% of all cross-border truck manifests are now reported electronically to SARS prior to the arrival of the truck at the border, that includes the truck registration details.”
The Commissioner said that to extend further practical benefits to traders and increase compliance, the Single Window platform is being implemented, in partnership with Transnet. The platform will allow marine carriers to submit reports once to both entities to improve port efficiencies.
The implementation in partnership with Transnet will be followed by a National Single Window to enable traders to submit all cross-border documents through a single point of entry to government and enable other border agencies to view, stop and detain goods for agricultural, health and safety concerns.
“Another project to combat illicit financial flows, brings together data from SARS, commercial banks and the South African Reserve Bank,” Mr Kieswetter added.
He said SARS had started its journey of modernisation and embracing a technology enabled and insight-driven culture as part of its DNA. However, SARS will need partnerships built on mutual respect, trust and a commitment to serve the greater public good.
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