The report finds that Burimari Land port, alone, receives up to Tk5.41 crore from extortion
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has found evidence of widespread corruption among the customs house and port authorities of Mongla port, and the authorities of Burimari land port.
TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman revealed this information at a press conference on Sunday, based on a TIB study entitled “Burimari Land Port & Customs Station and Mongla Port & Custom House: Governance Challenges in Import-Export and Way Out.”
The study found evidence that the customs house employees at the Mongla port were engaged in corruption involving Tk15.69 crore in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Evidence of corruption involving Tk4.61 crore was found among Mongla port authorities in the same fiscal year, said the TIB study adding that the Burimari land port and customs authorities were also engaged in corruption involving Tk17.10 lakh in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
The TIB report also pointed out that the Transport Workers Union extorts Tk900 from every truck that passes through the Burimari land port, totaling up to Tk5.41 crore from extortion, each year.
Even if the papers of the importers were in order the authorities still would not allow any goods to pass through the border without a fixed bribe. The amount gets bigger if the papers show any inaccuracies.
At Burimari, no trucks can be hired without giving the brokers an additional amount of Tk400.
The TIB found that customers have to pay speed money for every action related to tariff and product releases. Officials, brokers, and a portion of the regulatory body run a corruption circle, taking advantage of a lack of punitive action against corruption, an ineffective digital service providing system and political unwillingness to curb wrongdoing.
All these have resulted in an organized system of irregularity and corruption in the land ports.
The anti-corruption watchdog has come up with eight-point recommendations, including the introduction of an automated system for custom duties to fight corruption and increase work efficiency.
The study was prepared by analyzing information provided by officials, employees, clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents, shipping agents, carriers, journalists, business leaders and other stakeholders during a time period starting July 2017 to September 2018. Additional information was also collected from different papers of ports, customs houses, different studies, news, publications and websites.
At the Mongla Customs House, imported goods have to pass 16 stages, while exported goods have to go through 12 stages of scrutiny papers. This lengthens the time required for the completion of the process, and also increases the risk of harassment and corruption. In contrast, goods laden ships only have to pass through eight stages at the customs house for clearance.
A total of 59% of the posts, among the port authorities, remain vacant. There is political pressure while making new appointments. Lack of facilities has also increased the expenses of import and export processes.
The executive director of TIB mentioned that, at both Mongla and Burimari land ports, port authorities have taken a number of steps to develop the management, but years of corruption and extortion have given the corruption an organized look.
TIB came up with recommendations of establishing a complete office of customs house at the Mongla port to speed up the customs duty collection and put emphasis on technological means to scrutinize goods.
It also recommended filling up the vacant posts, publicizing the financial statements of officials and employees, bringing the port and customs areas under CCTV surveillance, collecting all duties and taxes through the bank and online systems and taking action against those engaging in extortion.