URA's customs officer James Ssaka demonstrates how the tracker works to a team from Ethiopia on a benchmarking visit last week.

Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) the country’s official tax collecting organ implemented an Electronic Cargo Tracking Software (ECTS) that was aimed at helping Customs officials and stakeholders have real time information about the movement, location and any other developments on cargo under customs control.

URA further uses the system to monitor the movement of goods with high revenue risk on which taxes have not yet been paid destined for the domestic market and those in transit to neighboring countries.

After effecting this, URA bore a vision that goods moving along the Northern Corridor (Mombasa-Kigali) shall be monitored in real time, curbing dumping, theft and other vices that over times ensued in the transit world.

 

URA’s customs officer James Ssaka demonstrates how the tracker works to a team from Ethiopia on a benchmarking visit last week.

The Electronic Cargo Tracking Software cost URA a whooping US$5.2m which was co-funded by the Government of Uganda, World Bank and Trademark East Africa and was developed by Malaysia-based B-Smart Technologies as the solution provider. The money was among others used to purchase electronic seals and an impending control center, which will be housed at the URA head office in Nakawa, Kampala.

We take a look at the Electronic Cargo Transfer Software acquired by Uganda Revenue Authority to help it track goods in transit i.e. goods from outside Uganda to destinations outside Uganda, goods from abroad to inland destinations and goods from Uganda to foreign destinations.

About 10 months later there has been tremendous effort since the implementation of the ECTS in Uganda but that doesn’t completely rule out the glitches from the system.

How the ECTS works

The Electronic Cargo Transfer System comprises of electronic seals and a control center. Due to the fact that the system interfaces with Asycuda World, a customs management system, it will target high risk goods.

Thereafter, a Customs official attaches seal on a container. The seal relays accurate, real time information about the container\goods to the control center. The owner of the goods and the clearing agent also get updates. There are two types of seals. One used to track cargo and the other fixed into the cigarette lighter port, monitors units (small vehicles).

The seal sends alerts when a container is tampered with, when a driver veers off course and communicates sudden stops on the road. The seal can only be removed by Customs officials when cargo reaches its destination.

Important to note that all the designated transit routes are geo-mapped, making it easy to detect vehicles veering off-course. The system automatically stores everything, making it possible to process data spanning over a year whenever the need arises.

ECTS comprises a central monitoring center, e-seals which communicate with the center whenever vehicles divert from geo-mapped routes or when goods are tampered with. Rapid response teams are dispatched when things go wrong.

The system is internet-based and does not require massive physical infrastructure, which makes implementation easier and faster. The e-seals’ long battery life helps to track and recover them when dumped. ECTS triggers an alarm whenever there is diversion from the designated route, an unusually long stopover or when someone attempts to open a container.

So how are Ugandans and URA Benefiting from this ECTS

According to Uganda Revenue Authority, the implementation of the system has helped to foil highway robberies and delays before cargo gets to its destination or crosses the border to another country. The system further provides real time information on the location and status of the cargo to transporters and cargo owners or their agents as the goods are transported from Mombasa to Kigali.

Until now, goods owners relied on calls made to drivers, who often told lies on their whereabouts. The costs of physical escorts, risk of diversion of cargo, absence of reliable statistics, inability to know the actual location and status of goods were the challenges that prompted the system.