enya Revenue Authority (KRA) has granted clearing and forwarding agents 30 extra days to submit the required documents to be licensed as customs agents.
Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) national chairman Mr Roy Mwanthi, in a letter dated 27th August this year wrote to KRA requesting this extension.
Mwanthi said that the clearing agents were going through several challenges in obtaining some of the renewal documents hence delaying timely submission of the same.
“Among the documents that are slowing down renewal exercise are obtaining tax compliance certificate, certificate of registration and certificate of good conduct from the national police service,” Mwanthi said in the letter, adding that the process has been exacerbated by the laid down Covid 19 mitigation protocols.
KIFWA represents all clearing and forwarding firms in Kenya. KIFWA is also the national member of the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), the regional body that represents clearing and forwarding agents in the East African region. The Federation aims at promoting a professional and compliant freight logistics industry for trade facilitation and regional economic growth. FEAFFA strives to address the challenges experienced by its members at Association and firm levels through provision of training and other aspects of capacity building.
Since 2007, FEAFA partnered with the EAC directorate of customs, East African Revenue Authorities (EARAs), the national associations of customs agents and freight forwarders in East Africa in providing the East African Customs and Freight Forwarders Practicing Certificate (EACFFPC) training to customs agents to equip them with skills for provision of professional service. Over 6000 customs agents and freight forwarders have qualified from the program in the region. The EACFFPC is a six month a mandatory training program to all Customs Agents jointly implemented by the EAC directorate of Customs, the East Africa Revenue Authorities (EARAs) and the national associations of the freight forwarding industry affiliated to the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA).
Additionally, FEAFFA also developed a professional code of ethics that provide for general principles and standards for good practice in the conduct of clearing and forwarding agents while carrying out their day-to-day activities.
A key challenge, however, is the absence of a legislation that addresses key issues touching on the professional development of the individual customs agents and freight forwarders, yet this is what is key in professionalizing the sector. In contrast to much of the rest of the world where clearing and forwarding goods require compulsory professional qualifications, registration, licensing, and a clear track record – to prevent rule breaking and abuses.
Canada, for example, runs the government regulator the Customs Border Control Agency, which ensures customs agents are qualified, registered, licensed, and kept abreast of new rules. The agency checks to ensure each agent is tax compliant too. Likewise, in the US, customs agents must be licensed, which requires compulsory qualifications, and the same in Australia too, and around the world.
In Kenya, professional licensing of agents, like in other professions is not defined in the existing policies or regulations. This is despite the fact that clearing and forwarding agents handle goods worth millions of shillings on behalf of their clients who are majorly importers and exporters. Furthermore, there are no internal mechanisms within the freight logistics industry in Kenya to handle disputes relating to clearing of goods in the country.
The recently unveiled Customs Agent and Freight Forwarder’s Management Bill proposes the creation of a Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders’ Management Council, and Kenya Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders Registration Board to oversee the industry, administered by the industry’s professional society.
The registration board will ensure all agents hold mandatory qualifications, register all customs agents and freight forwarders, publish the list of the certified agents annually, effect a professional code of ethics, and carry out disciplinary proceedings in the industry.
Such a model of self-regulation is not novel in Kenya, with the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), the professional body for all practicing advocates in Kenya, having exemplified the role that self-regulation can play in combining an ethical code of conduct, capacity building, and registration, to achieve the highest level of professionalism.
Other EAC countries including Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and Rwanda are also pushing for the enactment of national laws to govern operations of customs agents and freight forwarders in their respective countries . This initiative is being supported by TradeMark East Africa in partnership with FEAFFA. All the EAC partner states have draft self-regulation bills with input from the key stakeholders from the industry.
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