Equipped for the future
Dutch Customs wishes to stay among the best customs services in the world. To make that ambition a reality, our organization has to respond to new challenges which come up in the coming years. It requires a focused and coordinated approach, which is why Customs set up a Strategic Long-Term Plan (SMP). What does it exactly contain, and what are the benefits to citizens and companies?
Dutch Customs is one of the most efficient customs organizations in the world, which is evident from the World Bank’s Logistic Performance Index. “We must cherish that status”, says Hans Klunder, Strategy Director at Customs. “Our position of a prominent trading country benefits from efficient customs services. However, it is not a given that we will keep that position. To do that, we must face the issues which are there now and in the future, and we must take up any opportunities for improvement. The Strategic Long-Term Plan is supposed to help us in the process to ensure that we can continue to properly carry out the social tasks we are entrusted with.”
Nanette van Schelven, Director General of Dutch Customs, agrees that her administration is facing a large reform process. “We are faced with a substantial growth of the volume of declarations and increased digitalization of the flows of trade. It requires adjusted forms of enforcement and a new way of working for Customs, with a central role for data and automation. Companies and citizens moreover expect to be able to do business with us in a simple and digital manner. At the same time, in the coming five years, we have to deal with an age-related exit of a large number of employees with much professional knowledge who will retire from our services.”
Five initiatives that have priority
To be able to carry out the Strategic Long-Term Plan efficiently, the Customs management set five initiatives (see box below). These initiatives have a priority in being tackled in the coming years. For example, Customs will engage in a future-proof position and formation house, as well as an efficient flowing in and flowing out process, to be able to deal with the foreseeable staff turnover. Another priority is typically the part-program Integrity, which focuses on both current and new employees. Van Schelven: “Customs wishes to be known as a reliable and ethical organization. We have a major integrity program to protect our staff members better and to make our customs organization more resilient against criminal effects from outside. It is a way in which we limit the risk of integrity violations. It is for that reason that Customs arranged for an external study into the integrity risks of our organization in the Rotterdam port. We use the outcome of the study to set up our integrity programme, its contents and its implementation.”
Green, yellow and blue
Another important point of attention: a layered organization of customs supervision. “Together with automated risk management, this is the core of modern customs supervision”, says Klunder. “The starting point is to do less and less radical interventions in the logistics in respect of reliable market parties and to do more checks in respect of unknown entrepreneurs. The flow of goods will be divided in three layers, referred to as the green, yellow and blue processing flow. Each layer has its own risk profile and a matching enforcement toolbox. By the way, this isn’t a new concept: it’s an essential part of our enforcement vision Pushing Boundaries*. We have been working on that for several years now. In the coming two years, we will concentrate mainly on the implementation of the green flow in the Import process and all it involves, which includes the market parties that have an Authorized Economic Operator or AEO license or an AEO status. In addition, we wish to make increased use of data analysis and auto-detection in our approach to enforcement. In the future, our checks must mainly be based on automatic risk analysis.”
Coordinating with stakeholders
The Strategic Long-Term Plan of Customs is not set in stone, explains Van Schelven. “The world in which we operate is continually changing. It is for that reason that we review whether our starting points still hold true every year. The Strategic Long-Term Plan will be subject to annual review and updates, on the basis of new insights, assessments of the results and the latest figures. An example is the volume of declarations.”
Customs will also coordinate the strategic aims in the Strategic Long-Term Plan and its resulting plans and actions with external stakeholders. Van Schelven: “In the coming months, we will organize meetings with our partners in the government, the scientific community, the umbrella organizations in the business community and the port authorities. We would like to know from them whether we tackle the right matters, and whether we tackle them in the right way. Two years ago, we conducted a similar consultation round which we used to set up the Strategic Long-Term Plan. We are thus continuing the dialogue and we hope to make more progress. There is a long way to go.”
* In ‘Customs NL inSight’ number 2 2019 we got into the details of Pushing Boundaries.
The priorities of the Strategic Long-Term Plan
- Layered enforcement. In the coming years, Customs will have a layered supervision: less (and less radical) interventions in the logistics of companies that are evidently reliable, and more checks of unknown entrepreneurs.
- Cyclical supervision of client management. Client management is supported by advanced IT aids and data analysis techniques which make it possible to have an effective and efficient supervision of companies.
- Information position. Customs is working on enriched information about goods and actors in the trade and logistics sector.
- Strategic staff management. To make provisions for the large staff turnover in the coming years, Customs is working to develop strategic staff management.
- Integrity policy. To increase the resilience of the organization against crime, Customs is working to intensify the approach to integrity.