The new one-window duty free service launched a month ago by the Addis Ababa Investment Agency has been facing severe criticism from customers who have deemed it to be ‘too time consuming.’
The duty free service, previously provided by the customs office took a maximum of four days; the new service given by Investment Agency now takes six to ten days.
Customers are forced to waste time, left unable to meet deadlines. An anonymous man reported that it took him ten days to bring out his imported crusher and excavator from customs. “The main reason the government has allowed us to import in the machines duty free is because the work we are doing is of great priority to the country. That means we should not lose a single day of work, we should not be idle. But because of sluggish work procedures in the agency we are wasting our time; we can’t work without our equipment.” He further stated that corruption remains a problem at the Kaliti Customs Station.
“Some workers at Kaliti Customs Station ask for bribes to provide a faster service. Sometimes you have no option but to pay them just to get your equipment fast.’’
Mesfin Karesemma, Incentives and Development Core Process Unit Head of the Investment Agency accepted that time delays are a problem, attributed to the shortage of staff assigned to the duty free unit.
“Previously, the work was done by 16 customs officers. We have just four workers assigned on this duty at the moment.” Responding on why the number of staff was reduced significantly, and if studies were made to determine staffing requirements for the one-window duty free service, he said, “A mistake was made during planning in 2013, the study overlooked staffing needs of the service.”
The Investment Agency had said that it is consulting with the relevant government bodies to solve the issue.