Acting Comptroller at Customs Jomo Butler- “looking at the numbers in comparison to many things that are touted on social media, when you look at the numbers and you get the feedback from individuals who have spoken about the system, many individuals are saying… ‘This is something good. This is working for us’.”

BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Thursday 31st December 2020) – Persons going about social media to air allegations about stolen/missing items, in pointing at a pre-examination aspect of a new cargo clearance system, are being asked to make formal contact with the relevant authorities if they do have genuine claims instead of venting via such platform.

Acting Comptroller at Customs Jomo Butler, in addressing the topic of theft allegations, has however, expressed: “It is a perception and it is not grounded in imperial data or any evidence of any kind. The reality is that we have processed over the past 16 days 1777 noncommercial individuals in our system in a very short period of time…”

A social media meme stemming from allegations that criticize the new cargo clearance system (sourced image)

He was at the time speaking on a panel discussion by the St.Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority (SCASPA) and the St.Kitts and Nevis Customs and Excise Department (SKNCED) hosted on ZIZ television and radio on Monday 28th December 2020.

Butler also said that “looking at the numbers in comparison to many things that are touted on social media, when you look at the numbers and you get the feedback from individuals who have spoken about the system, many individuals are saying… ‘This is something good. This is working for us’.”
As gathered, the reason behind the new system is to provide service in an efficient manner during the peak season amidst COVID-19 pandemic.

Butler talked about the decision made in arriving at the best system that can be put in place to ensure the safety of those who are frequenting the port, the safety of those who work at the port and continuity of operations.
He shared that a major part of the process where persons would come into contact with workers on the premises would be the examination and went on to highlight the “best option” of a pre-examination whereby the goods are examined in the presence of the representative of the shipping agent, port authority representative and the customs officer following which “an assessment is done and then that assessment is entered into our system.”

In further praising the turnaround time with the new system, he commented: “Imagine within a short period of time we were able to clear out 1777 parcels….process them through our system. Now, they were processed at a very reasonable rate. Why I say that is on normal days by half past 3pm, 4 O’clock, we are closing down because we have dealt with everybody who have come to clear goods from the port. In other instances, there are times when we do have peak numbers but we have gone down 6pm…7pm may have been the latest in regard to that.”

Butler implied that such  achievement is “ historic” when compared with  periods such as 2018 and 2019 when persons would be up at the port “very late because when they come, they are not only just going to pay for their goods, they have to do the examinations… each person [who] comes have to do the examination and that extends the time , and oftentimes persons are backed up and waiting  just to get access  to the compound and even when they are on the compound , they have to wait in queues and long lines in the crowds and so on and the space  is limited up there  so we have achieved what is a significant milestone in my opinion.” 
He appealed to individuals to use proper channels in making genuine claims regarding the system.

“Is the system perfect? Of course not but what I’m saying is that there is a medium through which one can get redress in cases in which they have a genuine claim and social media is not that medium . We have channels through which we will entertain persons and we will try our very best, of course, to investigate, and once it can be substantiated, we will restore what you have lost; that is our responsibility…”

According to Butler, “It is a minute number of persons in comparison to the numbers that have gone through that …have these issues in regard to the system but we have had few persons who have come forward to us with genuine claims because social media is not the place to put forward those claims. We have a claims process in place and we encourage persons to come …”

Meanwhile Sea Ports Manager at SCASPA Joseph Wilson added: “Persons are going to social media to bring about their displeasure with the system. They are stating or making allegations before contacting whether Port, Customs-the point person, the point entity to make any claims.”
He claimed to have had only two claims made at the time.

“To date I’ve only had, let’s say two official claims brought forward but every day when I go on Facebook or I get a WhatsApp stating of all these claims but there is no official being brought forward. So this is being pushed or pedaled on social media. It’s as if it’s an agenda to stop the system or this implementation that we have …and like Mr. Butler said, I would encourage persons to get in touch with us …there is a point person Kishma Griffin at Customs…and we encourage persons before you go on social media ….before you go that route, contact us, let us do our investigation…”