Towards the certification of Authorized Economic Operators
Reforms in the Customs sector
This is the opportunity to congratulate the Customs administration of Benin for the outstanding work done in preparing the Authorised Economic Operator scheme, and the involvement of many senior executives in its implementation. In particular, the Regulations and International Relations division played a major role researching an evaluating foreign experience, aligning to World Customs Organisation standards, and adjusting the AEO regime to Benin’s environment.
The role of Webb Fontaine, as a development partner, was to share international best practice, provide IT and legislative support, and ensure coordination between the different entities involved. It is through such a partnership that institutional reforms are led and adequately internalised.
This AEO approach is somewhat the cornerstone of Customs modernisation, as it involves many aspects of the modernisation strategy. This is why it has such an importance in the reform plan, as it encompasses both the IT and organisational dimensions, and reinforces Customs’ role of facilitating trade without impairing control. However, it takes into account the rule according to which 20 percent of importers represent 80 percent of imports, which justifies the modern approach in Customs of “client segmentation”.
The AEO programme in Bénin has two characteristics: It is intended to evolve, and it has a strong facilitation impact.
The programme will evolve over time, although it will start with standard basic features.
The initial benefits are standardised: They result from a positive discrimination:
- Priority processing for declarations lodged by AEOs;
- A significantly reduced rate of inspection, although random examinations can still take place (actually in the interest of importers); and
- An image of professionalism and competence, which is a competitive asset.
These benefits can be customised, at the request of the AEO:
- The initial company assessment performed with the assistance of Customs is the opportunity to discuss additional benefits;
- Further simplification may include for example simplified summary declarations with periodic consolidated declarations
The facilitation impact is significant:
- Mutual recognition is a real asset: The supply chain is credible, and trade partners benefit from the AEOs’ credibility;
- Subsequent AEO approval under the safety and security accreditation brings another dimension to the programme, and enhances the competitive advantage of the countries involved;
- There is a significant impact on international indicators, such as the Logistics Performance Index ad the Cost of Doing Business indicator.
This new approach by Customs involves a company assessment with Customs specialists. This assessment ins in no way a company audit, and whatever findings Customs may make will under no circumstances be used against the company. On the contrary, they will help the beneficiary to take corrective action to meet the high credibility standards required. In that sense, Customs become a partner and advisor.
This is a new approach to the administration / private sector relationship, based on mutual confidence. It will also support the introduction by Customs of new instruments and procedures as part of the overall modernisation programme delivered by Webb Fontaine.