MASERU – The National Assembly on Monday adopted the Customs and Excise Bill 2021 following a motion by the Minister of Finance, Thabo Sofonea.
In his motion to the House, the minister said once enacted, the Customs and Excise Amendment Bill will enable the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) to formulate regulations which will entice traders who comply with set regulations to get some sort of compensation.
Sofonea said the Bill will also pave way for the introduction of electronic facilities at some of the borders, which he said will reduce long queues of traders for clearing their goods.
“The electronic system will enable the traders to clear their goods at the comfort of their homes and not to physically be at the borders,” he explained.
The minister further showed that the electronic system will improve quality services at the borders as well as increase revenue collection that will boost economic growth in the country.
The system, he said will enable immigration officers to see the origin of the goods, adding that it will be applicable to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
For his part, the Chairperson of the Economic Cluster, Mahooana Khati, said the Customs and Excise Act was ancient as it was first enacted in 1982, adding it needed to be amended in order to pave way for the introduction of the electronic system.
He believes while the use of electronic system will accelerate revenue collection, it will also enable the LRA to issue traders licenses cards timeously while on the other hand improving information dissemination between the authority and the traders.
Khati warned the traders who normally smuggle their goods into the country that they will be heavily penalised if found, but expressed concern that the law enforcement agencies seem to delay such cases, which he said affect revenue collection in the process.
Although the other parliamentarians supported the amendment bill, they however, expressed concern that it might not be fully implemented by the immigration officers.
They were also worried that the traders might not get well trained on how to use the electronic system, adding that they also needed to know what the bill itself entails.
They were also skeptical that it might cause job losses to many Basotho and therefore unnecessarily increase the unemployment rate in the country.
The Customs and Excise amendment bill will eventually be used at the borders across the country to enable traders to carry out their services with ease.