The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: URA Pilots Asycuda World Software

The Uganda Revenue Authority Customs department will pilot ASYCUDA World, an upgrade of the current ASYCUDA++, on November 26, at Jinja Customs office. ASYCUDA (abbreviation for Automated System for Customs Data) is software developed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for automating the customs clearance process.

ASYCUDA is an internationally acclaimed software and is in use in over 80 countries worldwide, including over 30 countries in Africa. The initiative aims at improving customs services by leveraging the capabilities offered by current trends in technology and a professional and service-oriented customs staff, Joseph Mwangala, the Customs Business Systems Enhancement Project Manager, has said.

A three-month testing of the software will be carried out during the pilot at the Jinja Customs office. Thereafter, the system will be rolled out to cover all customs stations in phases beginning March 2013.

ASYCUDA World is the latest and enhanced version of ASYCUDA++ and will go a long way in improving the clearance process because of its following features:

A web-based Customs ICT system, thus offering 24/7 online access to custom services. Supports paper-less declaration processing via use of scanned documents. It will support the automation of all customs processes.

The current software ASYCUDA++ is not web-based and you cannot access it from anywhere. Also, you need ASYCUDA installed on your computer before accessing it. It can best be used on computers with windows XP and lower versions.

Importers and clearing agents can now look forward to having their goods cleared in the shortest time possible as long as there are no queries, says Mwangala. Currently, it takes about two weeks to clear with URA and lots of paperwork depending on the nature of the consignment. However, with ASYCUDA World operational, clearance time is expected to be reduced by half.

ASYCUDA World is expected to improve customs clearance in the following ways:

Improved Communication - ASYCUDA World offers an enhanced email platform which also supports attachments. For example, you only need attach the declaration and forward it to another user for further action.

• Faster declaration processing - Customs can immediately start processing a declaration as soon as a payment is registered at the bank without the need to wait for submission of the physical documents.

• It is a web-enabled system, hence traders will be able to submit declarations online from anywhere in the world.

• It is easy to use with a user-friendly screen; users only need to sign on once in order to access the several system modules.

• The system can easily interface with other URA and government agencies systems. It thus offers the platform for implementation of the the Single-Window facility.

• It is possible to attach and submit scanned commercial documents

• It offers paperless declaration processing.

• Traders can monitor the status of their declarations from anywhere as long as they have internet connectivity.

An agent needs any computer/laptop on the market so long as it: can connect to the internet, has a capacity of at least 50GB of hard disk space, and has at least 1GB of RAM. There is no need for special software in order to use the system.

ASYCUDA World is implemented under the Customs Business Systems Enhancement project which is one of the initiatives under URA's Managing Compliance Programme, (MCP). MCP is the codename for the second phase of modernization reforms to be implemented by URA for the period 2011 to 2015.

The MCP aims at improving service delivery to URA clients. The project is funded by Trademark East Africa.

The writer works with the Media unit in the Commissioner General's office.

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