25 November 2012

Ethiopia: ERCA to Pick Single Window Technology Provider This Week

The winner of four international IT companies that have offered up to 14 million dollars to install the Ethiopian Electronic Customs Single Window System for the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA) will be announced this week.

A second company has offered 10 million dollars, according to an official who declined to offer more information. However, the ERCA expects that the job will be done for not more than four to five million dollars.

The single window system will provide a single access for request and communication of documents required for customs clearance for importers and exporters by synchronising all relevant private and government institutions.

The system, which is initiated by the ERCA, is intended to shorten the time spent by traders in processing documents required for customs clearance from various institutions, depending on the type of good imported, which is mainly done manually.

For instance, a food and beverage importer, which has to get its imports cleared, needs to produce several documents including copy of import permit from banks, copy of business license from Ministry of Trade (MoT), insurance certification from insurance companies, quality certification from the Ethiopian Conformity Assessment Enterprise (ECAE) and clearance permit for food items from the Ethiopian Food, Medicine & Health Care Administration and Control Authority (FMHCA).

In the bid to cut all these process to one, the ERCA intends to introduce the single window system that will allow importers and exporters to request all of the required documents from a single authority which will be established under the ERCA or as an independent agency, from their offices without going to the various offices in person.

The Tanzania-based Investment Climate Facilities for Africa (ICF) will cover 75pc of the project cost, according to the bid document. The ICF, which is supported by corporate investors, development partners and African governments, has already financed the e-filing and call centre projects of the ERCA.

The ERCA that will cover the balance invited international companies in the IT field to express their interest to install the system on July 2012.

Around 15 companies responded to the request, but only nine have been shortlisted based on their previous experience in installing single window system and availability of skilled human power.

However, it is only four companies that have presented their detailed technical and financial proposals for evaluation. These are, theSenegalbased GAINDE 2000, which has installed e-customs system for its home country; the United Arab Emirates (UAE) based Webb-Fontaine Group, Crimson Logic Ltd ofSingaporeandLuxembourg's Intra-Soft International.

These companies are expected to develop web-based software that will enable electronic exchange of documents among various stakeholders. The stakeholders include commercial banks, insurance companies, the Central Bank, the ministries of Agriculture and Trade, the Federal Transport Authority (FTA), the Ethiopian Shipping & Logistic Services Enterprise (ESLSE), the Ethiopian Investment Agency (EIA), FMHCA and the Ethiopian Standards Agency (ESA).

The importers or exporters thus do not have to shuttle back and forth to these offices, as they will simply fill their requests in the application form that will be provided by the system. Up on receiving their request, the single window system will process and distribute their applications to the respective institutions. After carrying out the relevant checkups, the institutions will issue documents or certifications needed and attach it to the system back to the ERCA to clear the goods imported or exported. The system will allow the traders to monitor the progress of their application online from their offices.

For the system to work, all of the stakeholders involved, including the traders, should be connected to the system.

Since the traders will not have a direct connection with the other stakeholders, the institution in charge of running the system will collect the fees that the stakeholders demand on their behalf.

Regarding the institution that will carry out the responsibility of running the system, the ERCA is considering two alternatives: establishing a share company with all the stakeholders, including the private sector, while having the largest share, or establishing an institution under the ERCA, according to sources.

For this system to be a reality, however, all the stakeholders should setup infrastructure to access the system. The authority is planning to brief the stakeholders about the system in the coming two weeks, according to sources.

The ERCA is finalising evaluating the technical and financial proposals of the companies and will announce the winner this week, according to sources. The technical proposals constitute 75pc of the total evaluations.

The system will create a paperless custom system that will reduce the margin of error and reduce corruption to a certain extent, as there will hardly be a physical interaction between the traders and officers of the different agencies, according to an official at the ERCA. The Authority hopes to collect more revenue from increased trade because of the system, the official said.

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