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Published On  Oct 09,  2011
   
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Power Outages Creates Havoc for Clearing Houses

 

 

Power interruption at one of the busiest and largest, by volume, clearing houses for imported items in the country, the Addis Abeba Commercial Commodities Facilitation Branch Office of the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Agency (ERCA) disrupted service for three days last week.

The Office stopped work starting Saturday, October 1, 2011 after power transmission was lost and the generator failed as well.

“The generator has parts that are not working due to the constant power interruptions,” Fasil Tadesse, general manager of the office, told Fortune.

The Office had spent around 180,000Br for maintenance of the generator this year, four times more than what has been approved for it, claims Fasil.

This was due to the concentration of factories in the area claims EEPCo. The Clearing House is located around Kality on Debre Zeit Road, where many industrial complexes are located.

There are around 40 transformers in the area due to the high demand from the factories, which makes maintenance difficult when there is power interruption, according to an official at the corporation, who is not authorised to comment.

However, clients claim the service delays they have been encountering are more than just power interruption; that the automated system for customs data (ASCUDA) was faulty as well.

“Even when power is available in between, their system fails to function,” Melaku Tekele, a transitor whose client’s have had five containers full of commercial goods stuck in Djibouti port for six days. “We cannot transport it into the country if it is not cleared at the Office. If the problem is not solved and we get the clearance in two days, we will be forced to pay demurrage,” he told Fortune.

But that is also due to the power outages, claims Fasil.

“It is not because the software is faulty, but due to the time it takes for the software to start up after each outage,” he told Fortune. “We have to go through the whole process of booting it up.”

To avert the problem on a permanent basis, the Office has requested the distribution system of the corporation to provide it with another electric line to be used as backup, according to a letter signed by the general manager and sent to Distribution Systems Process of the Corporation on August 13, 2011.

However, there has not been any concrete response from the corporation, according to Fasil, and so the problem persists.

The port of Djibouti charges 4,076 Br per six-metre per container and 5.65 dollars the first day the container stays at the port after an eight-day grace period. The amount increases by two dollars for everyday it stays on the port after that.

  “This will increase the price of goods as the trader will transfer this cost to the goods that are imported,” Melaku told Fortune.

It is not only the customers that are worried about the cost of the delay and interruption in service. Customs duty is one of the major contributors of the revenues ERCA collects. Last year, custom duty from imports of 3.9 billion tonnes contributed almost half of the 50.7 billion Br the tax authority collected.

The Authority has planned to collect 79 billion Br, out of which 22 billion is expected from customs, according to the target plan of the Authority for this fiscal year.

“In order to achieve the target, the office at Kality is tasked to collect around 78 million Br on a daily basis.” Fasil told Fortune. “Since the office runs important transaction, including big government projects, the cooperation should prepare a stand by technical team.”

By MAHLET MESFIN
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER

 

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