Perak Customs personnel taking the corruption-free pledge in Ipoh in March.

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Customs Department has put in place an almost airtight screening system to minimise chances of its personnel engaging in corruption.

The Corruption Risk Management (CRM) system that will be introduced in critical sections of the department, which is one of the country’s biggest revenue earners, will also serve to reduce leakages that could have hindered Customs from earning more than it had been able to.

Initiatives introduced under CRM have seen major tweaks to some of the department’s age-old systems and procedures.

This includes a “surprise rostering” of personnel in specific areas as well as the introduction of a programme where the levels of integrity of the taxmen are “analysed”.

Customs director-general Datuk Seri T. Subromaniam told the New Straits Times that he was optimistic that with the new mechanism in place, the department’s tax collection could increase by a “few billion ringgit”.

“This fully-integrated system prevents personnel from manipulating the current system and procedures. Corruption happens because some of the procedures lack transparency, so they are prone to be manipulated.

“CRM is basically a tool that reviews the processes and procedures to stop corruption and abuse of power.

“Since I assumed this post, we have conducted workshops to identify weaknesses in the processes and procedures,” he said, adding that the CRM  launched yesterday would be fully operational by year-end.

Subromaniam vouched for CRM’s effectiveness, saying that the tamper-proof system, enhanced with an airtight check-and-balance mechanism, heralded a new era for the department’s performance.

“If employees try to get around the system, they will find out that it is almost impossible.

“If they try to fail the system, the system will not fail the department.”

 The CRM also covered an “improved” conventional system, which Subromaniam believed would arrest the perennial problem faced by many enforcement agencies that operated from assigned stations — their officers getting too comfortable and working in cahoots with the bad guys.

For Customs men in such stations, including those manning the country’s entry points and ports, the CRM, he said, would see to it that they observed not only a rotational system, but also the “surprise rostering”.  

“There are cases where certain goods that were coming in and would be taxed  RM10,000, for example, but the assessment officer (for reasons known only to him) charged a tax of RM5,000 only.

“Under this rotational system, it will not be the same officer at the same post... The ‘surprise rostering’ system allows our personnel serving in these critical entry points to known where they will be stationed only when they report for work that day.

“They will also only learn then which importers and agents they will be dealing with that day.

“The upper management will also conduct ground auditing periodically and their assessments, too, will be rechecked by our integrity officers.”

He also touched on forwarding agents, including the black sheep among them.

He said these appointed middlemen, serving to facilitate import and export, would also be closely monitored and that they would face the full brunt of the law if they were involved in bringing in illicit consignments.

“Typically, in cases like this, where fraudulent declarations are made, these agents will put the blame on the importers, saying that they had no idea the consignments ran foul of the law.

 “How is it possible for these agents to get paid if they do not know who their clients are? Do they think that we are stupid?

“It is extremely important (to improve the procedures), especially with the Islamic State threat. Younever know... one day they may attempt to bring in explosives,” he said, adding that there had been cases of consignments containing drugs being declared as potatoes and cigarettes as furniture.

  On the possibility of Customs men having their palms greased by the agents to close an eye to their illicit imports, Subromaniam said the department would work with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to address such problems.

“One of the key changes that we are making is to make these forwarding agents more responsible in carrying out due diligence. That was why we appointed  them in the first place and if they fail to conform, we will cancel their licence.

“We have zero tolerance of corruption. That is our policy and we will not accept this nonsense. There are some bad apples, but they are not the majority.”

He said under CRM, Customs personnel, including new recruits, would be compelled to undergo an integrity test.

“We are going to be the first enforcement agency to introduce the Malaysian Integrity Profiling, and we are very happy and proud to do this.

“The module is developed by the Malaysian Institute of Integrity together with the Malaysian Institute of Microelectronics Systems Bhd, which will profile the officers, and help identify their integrity level, strengths and weaknesses.”

He said new recruits would be posted based on their profiling.

A total of 176 new officers sat the integrity test last Sunday.

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