A special audit into the Jamaica Customs Agency, JCA, has identified breaches resulting in more $2 billion in financial exposure and hundreds of millions in uncollected revenue.

Auditor General, Pamela Munroe-Ellis, tabled her report in the House of Representatives earlier this week.

It found that the Customs Agency contravened both the Customs and Special Economic Zones Acts.

Nora Gaye Banton tells us more.

According to the Auditor General, control deficiencies led to over $660 million being owed in arrears by three importers that ran private bonded warehouses as of September 30 this year.

The related items were imported between 2010 and 2015.

The Auditor-General noted that in most cases the items were removed from the warehouses without the payment of the required duties, in breach of section 122 of the Customs Act.

Additionally, the JCA did not provide the reason for not auctioning the items.

The Customs Agency in response indicated that the arrears were incurred before the introduction of ASYUCDA as the processes then were completely manual.

However, the Auditor General while recognizing the significant benefits of ASYCUDA, says this adverse condition highlights weaknesses in the JCA’s internal controls and monitoring activities, which may lead to revenue leakages.

It was further noted that 138 entries with related duties of over 308 million dollars were brought before the Courts in 2020 following queries.

The Auditor General also found deficiencies in the Agency’s Fuel Bunkering operations.

The report says the JCA failed to validate the authenticity of 765 declaration entries for Bunker Fuel Operator One, BFO1, that were paid late and recorded as exports.

These entries related to nearly 300 million litres of fuel with a customs value of approximately $12 billion.

It further noted that between June 2018 and February 2020, BFO1 failed to declare, in a timely manner, more than 50 million litres of imported fuel in five shipments with a CIF value of nearly $1.9 billion and estimated duties of $2.1 billion.

It was found that import entries, related to these five shipments, were outstanding for periods between one and three years and were only processed in 2021 following inquiries from the Auditor General.

The special audit was triggered by a whistleblower report which alleged malpractice and deficiencies in the operation of its private bonded warehouses.

The Auditor General notes that whereas allegations by the whistleblower could not be confirmed, the previously outlined breaches were identified.

And the Opposition, People’s National Party is calling for the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, MOCA, to immediately commence a probe into the matter.

Spokesman on Finance Julian Robinson, in a statement today, said it is critically important to determine whether or not this loss to the Government coffers is as a result of negligence or deliberate criminal conduct.