The objective of the project is to provide analysis of the free ports and open customs warehouses and to provide an evaluation of licensing and inspection activities.
The Swiss Federal Audit Office (SFAO) has assessed customs activities in the area of customs warehouses taking the current political and economic environment into account. As such, it sought to understand the development of customs warehouses.
It is difficult to get an overview of the results of the checks performed and their effects. ARGOS, the new database developed in 2013, should rectify this situation. The SFAO has identified a number of trends, the most common of which are: errors relating to the customs tariff, declaration of origin or customs procedure when declaring goods; inventory irregularities; a lack of traceability of the merchandise; and flaws in stock accounting. When irregularities or infringements are detected, customs can initiate administrative measures or criminal proceedings, depending on the case. Administrative measures, for instance, are applied in cases of non-compliance with operating requirements. Customs require compliance to be achieved; in the event of repeated cases of non-compliance, the warehouse license may be withdrawn. This type of sanction was imposed at least three times between 2011 and 2012. However, withdrawal of a warehouse license is difficult to impose on free ports given that the warehouse-keeper is not considered responsible for the merchandise that his depositors store. With the responsibility shared between the warehouse-keeper and the depositor, there is no way for customs to intervene.
The quality of inventories and the warehousing of mixed goods (duty-free goods and goods of national origin) are recurring problems that are encountered during checks. High-quality inventories are a prerequisite for ensuring the traceability of goods. Yet these elements are not covered in the overall risk assessment performed by customs.
The revised Customs Act made it possible for checks to be strengthened by making free ports part of the Swiss customs territory. It contributed to redefining operating conditions and to reassessing licenses. Nevertheless, the diversity of the checks performed and the information on their results are currently insufficient to guarantee their effectiveness. Good practices do exist at customs offices and they should become the norm.
In addition, the Directorate General of Customs has already rejected a license on the grounds of reputational risk; awareness of this risk should be increased at all levels within customs, especially when warehouse misuse is discovered, such as in cases of circumvention of customs and tax provisions, or non-compliance with or circumvention of non-customs provisions. The Swiss Federal Audit Office has made eight recommendations. It asks the Federal Council to adopt a strategy for customs wareho
link to the results: www.efk.admin.ch