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(BARBADOS NATION) — The Customs Department is to be headed by a comptroller and three deputies.
Making the disclosure yesterday, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn said the new management structure was part of the process of rebuilding and strengthening the Government agency, which had for several years been led by an acting comptroller of customs and had seen prolonged disruption in its operation during the former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration.
The MP for Christ Church East Central also disclosed a long-term customs expert had been engaged to help support that management team since advertisements for the top Customs positions had already gone out.
In addition, Straughn said a new position of Customs Officer 4 had been established to accommodate people in the department who were designated clerical officers but were performing Customs functions.
Customs officers had resorted to industrial action over the previous Government’s attempts to subsume the department within the Barbados Revenue Authority. That was however reversed by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, who stepped in after taking office and announced she would be putting a stop to the merger plans.
Straughn told the House of Assembly the Government considered the rebuilding of the Customs Department critical to the success of the IMF-supported Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) plan.
Leading off debate on the Customs (Amendment) Bill 2019, the Minister in the Ministry of Finance said new emphasis would be placed on training, as the skill set of Customs officers in the future “must change”.
To this end, he explained Government would be looking to attract people with backgrounds in information technology and accounting, who could be trained to become Customs officers.
The proposed legislation provides the legal framework for instituting the Advance Cargo Information system, which is being introduced to modernise the customs process. Straughn said accounting and information technology skills would be “critical to allowing Barbados to be effective in interpreting the data that would be provided by businesses and in the application of the new technology in their duties”.