Faceless assessment delays customs clearances

October 16, 2020: Some of the industries which have been severely impacted are automobiles & auto ancillary, electrical machinery, metals, chemicals and medical equipment, the sources said.

Fresh troubles have started grappling the Indian industries as import-export shipments are getting delayed yet again at Indian ports, this time because of the poor rollout of faceless assessment for customs clearances.

Sources told CNBC-TV18 that “a minimum of 15-20-day delay has been witnessed across Indian ports, over the last fortnight, which is leading to delays in production, meeting contract deadlines and hurting businesses.”

“These delays are due to the faceless assessment launched by the customs department,” customs brokers told CNBC-TV18.

Some of the industries which have been severely impacted are automobiles & auto ancillary, electrical machinery, metals, chemicals and medical equipment, the sources added.

A phased rollout of faceless assessment by customs started in the first week of September and the customs department now aims to do a pan-India rollout from 31st October.

Talking to CNBC-TV18, Sharad Kumar Saraf, President, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) says, “Industry has been facing a delay in clearance of shipments, for both imports and exports for the last 15-20 days, across the country. This is basically due to non-cooperation by customs. Implementation of faceless assessment is leading to these challenges for the industry. Almost all industries are impacted. Imports are hurt more than exports. This is leading to introducing hurdles in India’s Ease of Doing Business aim. The faceless system is indeed welcome but the customs officials need proper training for achieving the intent.”

Dinesh Dua, Chairman, Pharmexcil says, “Faceless assessment is a great initiative that government has undertaken as a part of Ease of Doing Business initiative which was welcomed by one & all in the industry. However, lower-level officials have started raising huge objections which was never the case prior to the faceless assessment to defeat the very essence of a great initiative. It’s seriously affecting the industry & will further slow down the recovery of GDP. This huge aberration must be rooted out by sheer data & analytics in customs clearances over 6 months pre & post faceless assessment to get to the bottom of the issue & ease Industry’s woes.”

Taking cognizance of the on-ground challenges, customs issued a fresh circular on 12th October, which provides a dashboard for better monitoring of all pending clearances and gives a guide to the field formations to reduce pendency in real-time. In this circular, customs has given various scenarios to ensure a smooth rollout. It also provides a window for grievance redressal.

“These are initial teething troubles, now that a new system is in place, capacity building has been initiated and soon expertise will develop to help ease these challenges,” said a senior customs official.

Not just this, in Delhi, the delays have further accentuated due to a massive labour strike at air cargo which is delaying the courier services as well, sources said.

Raman Raj Sud, President, Delhi Custom Broker Association told CNBC-TV18, “The situation in Delhi is even worse, Delhi is seeing a labour strike at the Delhi Air Cargo and along with this, the delays caused due to faceless assessment are pushing the consignments further. The industry is facing challenges, due to the pandemic and these two issues are adding to the woes.”

Source: CNBC TV18