COUNTERFEIT products are sold cheaply on the streets because our laws allow them into the country, Customs officials revealed yesterday.
Human smuggling and other illegal activities are also happening under the very noses of Customs officials but they do not have the capacity to prevent or monitor them, Customs officials told the parliamentary committee investigating the anti-Asian riots in May at Parliament House yesterday. (See story on Page 2).
The officials were responding to questions and concerns raised by members of the committee.
“As the organisation responsible for policing imports of goods, a lot of containers coming make false declarations and bribe Customs to stamp papers for their clearance,” committee chairman Jamie Maxtone-Graham said.
Senior Customs officers who gave evidence at the inquiry, including Walio Abilo, John Pamoso and Benjamin Sine, said manpower and resource constraints had contributed to Customs not monitoring seaports, airports and border ports as effectively as they would have wanted to.
Mr Abilo said Customs officers had now signed a code of conduct promising not to accept bribes, but he admitted there was corruption in the organisation.
“There is no room for corrupt people but we have officers on ships and out there and anything can happen,” he said.
He said at the moment, Customs had five officers to physically check 80
containers a week but they could not possibly check everything as any delays would hinder trade.
He said some companies made false declarations when importing items which were difficult to trace, but when suspected companies know that they were being monitored, they register
other subsidiary companies to avoid detection. He said most companies were registered with the Investment Promotion Authority in order to be able to import.
“At the moment, there is nothing in the law that says these products are of low standard and are prohibited.”
Mr Abilo said PNG used to have anti-dumping legislation that gave power to Customs to remove cheap products being sold in shops, but it was repealed in 1997.
“We could reconsider that law for Customs to enforce.”
He said, however, that major companies like British American Tobacco and Ramu Sugar had registered with Customs and any fake cigarettes and sugar products were removed.
The Customs officials said they had now decided to coordinate operations with
other line agencies to ensure strict adherence to PNG laws.
Mr Abilo said the PNG Customs Services, which is separating from the Internal Revenue Commission, was looking at a restructure to have 200 new positions.
Customs is also looking at buying x-ray machines from China to scan containers coming into the major ports of Port Moresby, Lae and Kimbe.