EghtesadOnline: Battling corruption in any organization requires the creation of an ambience where interactions between clients and officials are minimized.
By implementing proper mechanisms, this objective, which is sought by many Iranian organizations—including the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, can be realized.
Valiollah Afkhami-Rad, the former head of Trade Promotion Organization of Iran, said there used to be tens of tariff categories in the customs regulations under which different items were listed, but a few years ago the administration suggested a reduction of these categories.
Myriads of Tariff Categories
Afkhami-Rad said tariff categories were reduced to 15 in the fiscal 2013-14 and to eight categories last year (ended March 20, 2017), according to Financial Tribune.
“The government plans to further reduce them to six in the current year. This is important, because it reduces the number of documents that need to be handled by customs officials,” he said.
“It simplifies the procedures and clients can pay the fees easier and in shorter time. They no longer need to see different people inside and outside the system to get their work done and therefore, the space for corrupt activity will become narrow.”
Referring to the issue of directives on exemptions from customs duties, the official said, “Fraudsters can take advantage of these directives and use them through deceptive means to bypass the existing regulations. These directives provide grounds for corruption.”
According to Afkhami-Rad, making use of the latest technology can help achieve two goals: clearance time will decrease considerably and technology will give customs officials a clear picture of what has entered or exited the country, closing the gap on false claims.
Absence of IRICA in Lawmaking
Reza Kami, the head of Transportation and Customs Affairs Commission of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, believes that in the process of lawmaking, IRICA has no role to play and enters the picture only at the end of the process when the regulations need to be put into effect.
“Eliminating the current shortcomings of customs regulations, which disrupt the normal course of events and result in corruption, can be brought about if IRICA were to step forward and claims its place in the stage where regulations are made,” he said.
Customs Offices More Liable to Corruption
Not all organizations struggle with the same level of corruption, says Abbas Argoun, an official with Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture.
“Organizations that deal with goods and financial interactions like IRICA are more liable to face corruption. Customs offices play an undeniable role in promoting world trade and expanding international markets. They are our economic border guards and work, in a sense, in favor of the wellbeing of the society,” he said.”
Argoun explained that in today’s competitive world, international trade and investments grow in countries that enjoy efficient customs affairs that facilitate procedures.
Multiple Interpretations of Regulations
One factor preventing efficiency and encouraging corruption in IRICA, according to Argoun, is the plethora of unclear and restrictive rules, regulations and exemptions that pave the way for different and sometimes contradictory interpretations of what must be done.
“Other problems that give rise to corruption include the multitude of ports of entry, some of which are unofficial. Moreover, defects in the monitoring systems, possible moral weaknesses of customs officials and their insufficient incomes, high expenses of official and legal imports as well as import limitations for certain goods,” he said.
Argoun believes that making use of the experiences of other countries in this respect, building the culture and fortifying moral values, eliminating complicatedness of regulations, reducing bureaucratic procedures, using technology and minimizing face-to-face interactions between clients and service providers can help reduce corruption in the customs administration.