The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has been assisting Tonga’s Ministry of Revenue and Customs for over 30 years. Support for the Customs and Excise Division of the Ministry has ranged from provision of technical staff and advisors to the purchase of equipment and materials. This positive and productive relationship continues and marks a turning point this year with a significant change in the assistance provided.
In recent years Australia has funded ‘capacity substitution’ within the Division, essentially providing an Australian National to perform in the role of Deputy Comptroller of Customs. This three year role focused on developing the capacity of senior staff and the broader agency. This approach has proven successful with the Division set to appoint a Tongan National to the Deputy Comptroller role within the next two weeks.
Continued support is now focussed on ‘capacity building’ through provision of short-term technical adviser, Richard Brennan who began work with Customs in November 2013. Richard has facilitated several outcomes already including the delivery of essential safety equipment such as high visibility vests as well as introduction of an automated risk management framework.
Australia’s Acting High Commissioner, HE Mr Scott McLennan explained, “Recognising the key role that the Customs and Excise Division plays in efficient trade activities, Richard will primarily focus on enhancing service delivery and development of strong relationships between Customs and the trading bodies operating in Tonga. The automated risk management framework Richard introduced, assigns different inspection and clearance mechanisms for cargo shipments based on a risk profile. In this way both revenue and border security are maximised and operations streamlined.”
Richard will also work on structural reform initiatives within the Division to strengthen governance outcomes. This involves establishing key functional units such as intelligence capacity, inspections and compliance auditing. Regular liaison with the import and export community is ensuring the changes are well understood and compliance with the new requirements will be easier to achieve.
HE Scott McLennan stated that “once complete, the Tonga Customs and Excise Division will align with models of world best practice as upheld by the World Trade Organisation and World Customs Organisations. This will place Tonga as a regional leader in terms of Customs systems and processes.” Key challenges to be resolved in the second half of Richard’s placement include ensuring accurate data inputs and outputs from the automated risk framework, bedding down the new systems and processes across the workforce and ensuring staff levels in the new functional units are sufficient.
The Customs and Excise Division currently collects approximately 74% of total Government revenue. It is expected that as a direct result of the DFAT assistance annual revenue collections can increase by 20% through more effective import, export and consumption tax collection procedures, providing a valuable increased revenue support.
Infrastructure and Disaster
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Australian High Commission – Tonga
E | Sally.Perry@dfat.gov.au
T | +676 23244 (x 127)