Yet again, the Federal Government has extended, by another six months, the contract of the destination inspection service providers, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY can authoritatively report.
Impeccable presidency sources confirmed the latest respite for the four service providers, which is coming few weeks to the expiration of the six-month extension earlier granted them on June 30, 2013.
There are four service providers engaged by the Federal government to work with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on destination inspection of Nigerian imports.
The initial seven-year contact, which elapsed on December 31, 2012, was later extended by six months to June 30, 2013.
One of the terms of the contract was provision, operation and maintenance of the hi-tec scanners used to scan goods at the seaports, airports and land border stations.
The service providers were also required to train Customs personnel in operating and maintaining the machines at their exit.
The Presidency, it was learnt, had acted pursuant to the recommendations therein in a recent memo from the Federal Ministry of Finance.
It was gathered that the document had analysed the contract awarded seven years ago to the service providers, noting that the plan still stands, as from the beginning, for the NCS to take over from the service providers at the expiration “when hopefully” the Service “would have the proven capacity to carry out these vital services which are important to the economy.”
While it pointed out that it had been directed to provide an assessment of the readiness of the NCS, close to the expiration of the service providers’ contract, the Federal Ministry of Finance stated: “The subsequent assessment by the Ministry showed that the Service had made progress in some areas, but there were still significant gaps that needed to be filled .This was the basis for the initial six-month extension approved by the President.
“With the imminent approach of the end of this period, given the lack of transparency within the sector on all sides, there was need to get an honest assessment from an independent, professional party, The World Bank was commissioned at no cost to government to carry this out.
“The detailed assessment by the World Bank revealed more progress on reforms but indicated areas of risk to the economy if the new systems put in place are not properly piloted to ensure that they work optimally before being spread to the rest of the economy.”
According to the Ministry, a team of consultants hired by the NCS, working with Customs staff and with input from the World Bank is in the process of developing a six-month transition plan.
“New systems will be tested phase by phase to ensure a smooth and successful handover at the end of the period. The plan will include a clear timeline for handover at the end of six months and in any event before the end of 2013,” the Ministry stated.