The need for digital registration of vehicles started after the closure of the border gate on 24 March 2020 due to the pandemic. All import and export of goods were routed through Phuentsholing since only Jaigaon Land Customs Station was permitted to operate during the complete lockdown in India.
On 16 November, the Customs Road Cargo Manifest System, which is a revamped vehicle registration system with user-friendly interface and improved security features, was launched by the Finance Secretary, Kesang Deki.
“The behavior at the MDP has been unacceptable and it is Department of Revenue Custom’s (DRC) responsibility, under the scrutiny of Anti-Corruption Commission, to not turn a blind eye to the events happening at the borders,” the Finance Secretary said, and further said, “The efforts of the management team of DRC, and all who shares common goal of the nation, has been undone by a few unscrupulous individuals, and this is why we must act faster.”
Regarding misuse of TPN in the previous system, one case includes a vehicle registered under Nono and Bhutan Furniture. The contact number seemed quite suspicious, and upon investigation carried out by the Finance Secretary and DRC team, the importer and TPN was tracked down, as belonging to Bhutan Enterprise. Upon enquiry, Bhutan Enterprise claimed that they did not apply for the TPN or import, which was clearly a case of misuse of TPN by the above two agencies.
Another example cited is the import of one whole truckload of cast iron manhole covers, using CID number of an individual belonging to JD Enterprise. Upon further investigation by DRC, it was revealed that the JD Enterprise had issued no such import on that day.
In order to overcome such security issues, the ICT team of DRC developed the CRCMS system using a budget of Nu 14,000 for data recharge within three months. The CRCMS system is linked to RAMIS and has SMS verification features as well as tracking and validation.
The system has booking open for any day of the week, in order to prevent fast finger registration and avoid piling up of registrations, typically only few hours to a day will be taken for an import to get approved.
The CRCMS project will be replaced by electronic Customs Management System (eCMS), which is estimated to take two years to develop.
The earlier registration procedure was done manually and through email notification. It was initially handled by the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) and Regional Office of Economic Affairs (RoEA), Phuentsholing.
Media and Communications Specialist, Department of Revenue and Customs, Kaysang W Samdrup said the first system then was not only flawed but also prone to corruption and bribery.
It was pointed out that people had difficulties in distinguishing between the essential and non-essential goods, as only people in Phuentsholing could register for import, as it required a person to be physically present during the verification process. Officials were bogged down with huge number of emails, and there was breach of protocol by escorts and drivers.
The Department of Revenue and Customs started using Google Sheet for vehicle registration coming from third countries from 20 August -27 October 2020, but it proved difficult to manage and increased the number of stranded vehicles at MDP.
Regional Revenue and Customs Office (RRCO) took over vehicle registration from RoEA on 28 October 2020, and utilized an online Google form.
“People need not have to visit the concerned offices in person, and can apply from all dzongkhags. It also helped curb the corrupt practices of offering bribes to the officials to gain unfair advantages over other people who were also in queue,” said Kaysang.
She said it still had issues of its own, as traders started hiring Indian people to register on their behalf, and IT experts across the borders may have been using programs to register fast, within seconds, which otherwise takes minutes.
“It was also possible to misuse the TPN by another person as there was no OTP generation and verification in the web based system. The web based system has been infamously dubbed as fast finger system and many people were not happy about it,” Kaysang added.
The web based system was hacked by an individual in India and manipulated by unscrupulous individuals.
The CRCMS is an improvement on the above.