Johannesburg - A newly introduced digital customs management system at border posts would be positive for business and trade, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Thursday.
“Reducing red tape by reducing paper, by making processes more efficient, by introducing a better digitisation of processes... is all an important contribution to saving cost on the side of business,” he said.
Gordhan told reporters at Megawatt Park in Sunninghill, Johannesburg, the new system would centralise the clearing of all import and export declarations, using a single processing engine.
“We would be one of the few countries that has completely digitised customs processes in the world,” Gordhan said.
The new system came into effect on Saturday after it ran concurrently with the old one for six months in a testing period. The digitised customs process would help legal trade to happen and happen faster, Gordhan explained.
He said the benefits of the new system included reducing border turn-around time from two hours to six minutes on average, and reducing inspection processing time from eight hours to two hours on average.
“There is better security and risk detection and that will help us to protect South African businesses,” Gordhan said.
A digital network would promote trade within Africa, and improve the competitiveness of the South African economy.
“If we can avoid all the logistics log-jams then people who import from South Africa can say goods get to us in time and goods get to us when we need them, which is an important part of any business.”
Acting SA Revenue Service commissioner Ivan Pillay said the new system would make the economy more effective.
“This gives is economic leverage... We now have data, not only from a tax side but also the trade side.”
Gordhan said that in the 2012/13 fiscal year more than 4.3 million containers representing R2.5 trillion worth of trade moved across the country's borders.
Sars customs officials used about 16 million pieces of paper to process 5.5 million declarations received for the same period, he explained.
“The customs management system now eliminates virtually 99 percent if not all of that paper,” he said.
The system would improve competitiveness and reduce crime by detecting illicit goods more efficiently. He said it would be difficult for people to commit fraud because they “can't play around with the numbers”.
Asked about the cost of the new system, Gordhan said it was difficult to say. He could not provide an exact figure.