Customs Brokers End Strike over “Deal”

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The 40,000 member National Customs Brokers Association of Liberia (NCBAL) has partially ended its strike action, resumed work and will likely reach an agreement today, with the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).

The president of NCBAL, Ivan J.F. Tumbey, said the NCBAL recently halted its protest to negotiate and reach a compromis after several appeals from stakeholders, including Grand Bassa County District # 5 Representative Robertson N. Siaway, the Managing Director of the National Port Authority, Matilda Parker and Commissioner Dorbor Jallah of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC).

Mr. Tumbey said the association was advised to negotiate in the national interest instead of engaging in further confrontations.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer over the weekend, Mr. Tumbey said that at the top of NCBAL’s agenda in today’s meeting is tackling the additional fees on the Clean Report of Findings (CRF) and collecting fees of US$50 per 20-foot container and  US$100 per 40-feet container for scanning of Pre-Shipment Containers (PSI) when in fact the scanner is not functioning.

Tumbey maintained that the unnecessary additional fees are disturbing and the NCBAL wishes that the LRA should stop such charges until the scanner is functional and the charging power is renegotiated.

When asked whether they would resume their strike action if the LRA did not stop the additional fees on the Clean Report of Findings (CRF) and containers, Mr. Tumbey said the question was out-of-order because the LRA boss, Mrs. Elfrieda Tamba, is an honorable woman and woman of her word.

“I don’t think Madam Tamba will allow us to choke the budget, the economy and international trade…..because she is an honorable woman,” Mr. Tumbey said.

It may be recalled, on Monday, February 2, the customs brokers staged a nationwide strike disrupting clearing of imports at the nation’s seaports, airports and borders, depriving the government of millions of dollars in tax revenues.

The NCBAL which contributes nationwide US$2m daily into government coffers has a list of complaints that have so far not been addressed by the LRA or the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

The Customs Brokers cited unlawful, illegal and unjust collection of taxes from members of the business community by LRA, among other criticisms, and threatened to continue the strike until their terms are met.

During the strike action, the Daily Observer gathered that clearing of imports had slowed down denying the Liberian   Government of millions of dollars from tariffs and other import charges.

The major ports of entry affected include the Freeport of Monrovia, the Port of Buchanan, the border points in Cape Mount and Lofa Counties as well as the Ganta entry point in Nimba County.

Mr. Tumbey said besides the additional fees on the Clean Report of Findings (CRF) and collecting fees of US$50 per 20-foot container and US$100 per 40-feet container, the LRA has appointed additional assessors to already assigned assessors at the DI-sites at the Freeport of Monrovia to re-appraise all cargos, a procedure which he said is outside of the agreement signed between BIVAC and GOL.

Only BIVAC is authorized to appraise all cargos at the country of origin, using all of the internationally accepted procedures, according to the agreement between GOL and BIVAC.

Mr. Tumbey further alleged that Customs Officers of the LRA and employees of the Ministries of Commerce & Industry and Finance and Development Planning are engaged in Clearing and Forwarding while at the same time carrying on their normal government functions.

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