"Revenue from the community
for the community"
Status Report on Customs
26/05/2006 3:44:26 p.m.

The Minister of Finance has released a “Report on the Australia/NZ Funding Customs Programme” provided by the Head of Customs Ms Lee Deegan to Cabinet.  The report informed Honourable Cabinet Members of the work conducted to date within the Tonga Customs Service as a result of the Australia/New Zealand donor funded reform and modernisation program. 

With the arrival of the Australian Head of Tonga Customs to take up duties on 29 August 2005 and the New Zealand Deputy Head taking up duties on 28 November 2005, the basis of the program’s development was the Aide Memoire and final report of the June 2005 Scoping Mission conducted jointly by Australian and New Zealand Customs.

As both Head and Deputy positions are in-line, the everyday operational and management tasks as well as other tasks inherited by the Customs program, that is, WTO Membership, PC Trade and a new Customs and Excise Bill to deal with, has meant that the original Customs program became more extensive.

The report  stated that the public focus of the Customs program was the corruption issue and allegations regarding the Tonga Customs Service.  An associated issue with a particularly strong focus has been the all encompassing general use of the term “personal effects” for all things including commercial quantity goods by importers.  This is just one single example of the incorrect application of Customs law by the importing community which has not been previously dealt with even though it is a general point of observation made by members of the importing community.  This example has been dealt with by Customs through the Tonga Customs Notice system and continued physical and documentary examination.  Another issue has been the somewhat blurred lines of control and responsibilities of other agencies and operators at the border

The report made 28 recommendations to Cabinet which included establishing an independent anti-corruption body with investigative capacity to deal with all public sector corruption allegations; reviewing of all procedures as well as developing the code of conduct; improving the Customs auditing function and developing a Customs Broker education programme. 

Recommendations are outlined in the following document....RecommendationsforCabinet.doc

Improving the lives of Tongans through effective & efficient tax & customs administration