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Authority hopes to curb theft

The Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) will begin installing a Global Positioning System (GPS) on trucks travelling from and to Djibouti.

Global Computing Solution (GCS) is the sole provider approved by the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA) to install the technology.
GCS partnered with HI-G-Tek, a leading Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) maker based in the United States in January 2011 to install the devices.
INSA tested the efficiency of the GPS systems and awarded the project to Hi-G-Tek, one of the leading developers and RFID providers in the world with its Ethiopian partner GCS at a cost of USD 2.5 million.  
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is a technology that uses communication via radio waves to exchange data between a reader and an electronic tag attached to an object, for the purpose of identification and tracking. Some tags can be read from several meters away and beyond the line of sight of the reader.
The new control device technology, RFID, which is a wireless solution for monitoring, assessing and protecting high-value physical assets and sensitive materials or movable items, will be installed on containers going in and out of the country, for the Authority to monitor their movement.  Control server hubs will be placed at different customs stations so the GPS will work in remote areas.
Sources told Capital that INSA issued recently an approval letter for the GCS. 
“The company has finalized the RFID installation,” a source added.
According to sources, the trucks can get the devices at Comet compound in Kality and Bekelcha Transport office in Adama. “Currently we are waiting SIM cards from ethio telecom that will be placed in the devices of each truck,” the source said, adding that about 10,000 trucks are expected to be part of the new scheme.    
The CR devices have already been installed in Kality, Mojo, Adama (Nazareth), Dire Dawa, Mekele, Kombolcha and Galafi by GCS with Hi-G-Tek. According to sources, previously ERCA had planned to install the CR device in Awash, Mile and Kality 2 but these locations have been replaced by Dire Dawa, Mekele and Kombolcha sites, which are the newly emerging industrial areas with export oriented production.
The compact reader (CR) device of the new technology which is known as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), has already been installed in selected locations of the Djibouti corridor this past fiscal year. The CR signals are able to transmit information about any trucks that load containers or fuel through the device fixed on loaded sealed items.
The new controlling mechanism allows the authority to control the safety of import or export items loaded on containers and fuel trucks.
Currently ERCA is focused on preventing theft on the road to Djibouti, which is the major import export corridor of the country. A substantial amount of the much needed foreign currency is lost through theft or damage when packed cargo is opened.
“The RFID technology, the real-time monitoring and control system, has been applied in other developed nation’s transportation systems and it is the best option for the country’s economy and private owners to control their goods,” an expert at customs said.
For the system to function properly, all containers and bulk cargo trucks must be fixed with RFID tracking devices, including seals and locks, compact readers that read the seals and locks, as well as a GPRS modem to identify the location of the cargo. Officers at any of the stations can lock the trucks, put the alert system on, and notify other stations upon arrival.
According to sources, transport companies and truck owners providing services on the corridor have to buy and install the electronic devices from an authorized supplier (GCS), at the cost of 20,000 birr a truck, but the cost has not been confirmed by the company or ERCA officials. An ERCA official who preferred anonymity told Capital that the price depends on the company’s decision because of the rule of free market. 
Pilfering of goods, locally known as kisheba, which is a practice prevalent on the corridor, where criminals take goods off of trucks on their way to or from Djibouti, has been a constant aggravation.
“The new technology can combat the problem,” experts said.
Although for the past two and a half years ERCA has being taking tough measures on thieves and their cohorts who steal cargo, over the past twelve months, efforts have intensified. 
Even though the Authority has made its controlling system tight, the problem has not been solved as crime has become more organized.
In previous investigations drivers, thieves, middlemen and alleged recipients of the stolen goods have been involved in theft.
The stealing concerns all type of goods including petroleum and construction materials.
East Shoa Zone, Oromia Regional State, is the major hub where this illegal activity happens; especially Wolenchiti and Modjjo, 122Km and 79Km east of Addis Ababa respectively, because most drivers stopover at these towns.