Clearing agents fail Namra test
15 April 2021 | Economics
Less than 20% of the clearing agents who sat for the mandatory competency test to obtain certification passed the test.
There are currently 343 active clearing agents, who act on behalf of importers and exporters and arrange customs clearance of trade merchandise. Under the Namibia Revenue Agency (Namra) Act, clearing agents must pass a competency test in order to qualify for a licence.
Official statistics provided to Namibian Sun by Namra indicate that only 29 of the 212 agents who wrote the test managed to pass.
Namra boss Sam Shivute yesterday said the low pass rate was an indication that “there are people serving as clearing agents and their understanding of the Customs and Excise Act and procedures is limited”.
In January, the finance ministry warned agents that failure to comply with the new requirements by 31 March 2021 would result in them losing their licences.
The agents have blamed the government for rushing the launch of the agency without putting in place the necessary structures and systems.
Some also complained that the test was too difficult and that the scope of the test was more for those with a customs background.
“These guys just rushed things but they are not prepared.
“There are even international requirements from the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund that Namra has not met yet, now they are rushing the agents to catch up,” said an agent who chose not to be named.
Another clearing agent said the government introduced a “half-baked” product.
Officials at the agency disagree, saying the agents did not want to be subjected to stringent licensing measures aimed to ensuring tight regulation of the industry which has over the years operated in the dark, a situation that cost the country millions of dollars in lost import and export taxes
Shivute feels “the agents need to up their game and develop a deeper understanding of the customs procedures”.
This, he says, will help to legitimise and ensure that trade is duly facilitated and that traders pay their fair share of customs duties and taxes to the state.
He also indicated that the 31 March deadline has been extended.
“The new date will be communicated to clearing agents and we will create training programmes. Namibia is the only country in SACU that did not require clearing agents to sit for a competency test,” he said.
As for claims that the test was difficult, Shivute said a different approach would be sought, should failure rates remain high.
“Should it be found or confirmed that the content is not easy to understand, it will be reviewed with the aim of making it easy for the agents to understand,” Shivute said.
He did not say whether clearing agents who failed the test would be required to cease operating their businesses.
At least four clearing agents who spoke to Namibian Sun accused the government of rushing the launch of Namra. Most of those who passed the test were former employees of the then Directorate of Customs and Excise.
“The questions are designed for customs officials,” claimed an agent who had taken the test.
“There is a lot of conflict of interest.” Agents added that while there were concerted efforts to help them get acquainted with the knowledge during the previous regime under the ministry of finance, it had now changed with the agency.
“In the past there were workshops and then you go and write the test, now there is no such thing,” officials said.
To pass the competency test, agents must understand international trade frameworks such as the Kyoto Convention, the World Trade Organisation trade facilitation agreement and regional agreements. Agents are also required to master the general principles of risk management. Agents are also required to understand the rules of origin related to trade.