As government officials prepare to discuss tax reform in The Bahamas, Customs Comptroller Charles Turner admitted that the government is losing $100 million annually because of fraudsters.
He said most of the scams don’t come from the individual Bahamian citizen, but from businesses lying to the government.
“There is a lot of smuggling going on,” he said. “From our recent interviews and analysis we have determined that there could be as much as $100 million being lost per year especially with regards to tobacco products.”
“We believe that we are losing $20 million with regards to tobacco products and when it comes to beers, we believe that we lose about $5 million to $10 million per year.”
Yesterday, the government signed a $16.5 million loan agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to modernise the country’s Customs system.
Officials say the funds will be spread out to buy a new computerised system and further train Customs officers.
This will cause the Customs Department to implement a management performance measurement system for better monitoring and evaluation.
Mr. Turner said this will benefit the department in a number of ways.
“With the system, it will be able to increase our risk analysis to be able to determine our risks. We should be able to see results within the next two years,” he said.
The IDB recently warned that Bahamas customs’ current woes also threatened the nation’s World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession and implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed with the European Union (EU).
Among the concerns identified by the IDB was the low, five percent success rate when it came to seizures of illegal and smuggled goods during physical inspections of cargo by Bahamas customs.
This, the report added, resulted in the ‘excessive use’ of physical inspections by Customs, with up to 80 per cent of cargo imported into The Bahamas subjected to this process.
This, in turn, affected ‘the efficient and timely clearance of goods’, increasing costs for the Bahamian private sector and creating logistics/inventory management issues.