By MALUM NALU
Border control and enforcement agencies lack resource to control the multi-million kina illicit trade that flourishes in PNG using smuggled items from Indonesia, The National reports.
A Customs source, who asked not to be named, confirmed reports by British American Tobacco in The National that millions of kina worth of illicit goods were being smuggled with ease through the border post at Wutung, West Sepik.
|Confiscated contraband being burned by Customs authorities at the border|
“There are things happening at our borders every day,” the source said.
“The border control and enforcement agencies are under resourced in terms of manpower, logistical support and training.
“Further to that, border enforcement officers are not being properly looked after in terms of housing, good salary, etc.
“Government agencies have very low staff retention rates where well-trained and qualified persons leave and find pastures elsewhere for better working conditions.”
The source said acceptance of bribes by officers was brought by the increasing cost of living.
“An officer is likely to forgo over K20, 000 state revenue at any one instance by accepting less than K200 offer for approval and release of goods or people,” he said.
“The consequential risks attached with allowing such people or goods to enter the country are far more damaging for the people, the legitimate business community and the country in terms of security and revenue for the state.
“Responsible governments must increase funding towards staff welfare, salary/wages for staff and build the resource capabilities so that officers can perform their tasks with professionalism and due care.”
The source could not confirm or deny that K7.2 million in government revenue was lost because of the illegal tobacco trade “as reliable data involved in smuggling activities is not being captured in our database system, especially on unlawful/illegal trades involving goods and people across PNG’s borders”.
BAT said in a document highlighting the seriousness of the problem that a common misconception and a running argument used by perpetrators of illicit trade was that the products were made by a sister company in Indonesia, so it was not counterfeit, and therefore legal.
“For instance, Coca-Cola products are made by the legitimately registered company in Indonesia,” it said.
“In the same vein, Pall Mall products are made by BAT Indonesia.
“This is right, but only the half of it.
“Because despite being owned by the same company, the product will still need to have duty paid on it the minute it enters another country.
“It is still a genuine product.
“But because duty is not paid, it becomes contraband and therefore illegal.”