OLPCorps Tulane University & UC Davis – Sierra Leone


Customs by jamesko
July 6, 2009, 12:16 pm
Filed under: Logistics

The ball is rolling. And now, the waiting game…

This post is a continuation of “XOs Please…”.

So after my arrival, Katie R and I spent a couple of days in Freetown to try and resolve the Customs issue, as well as pick up a modem from the head SierraTel office (per the office in Kenema’s instructions). Our… “adventures” with the modem will be saved for a future blog.

So why have we been having problems getting our laptops released?

Although his intentions were not malicious, our in-country contact unfortunately tried to tackle the complex shipping and customs process solo, without communicating with the appropriate DCI personnel (their Logistics and Operations Manager). As a result, what he thought was a duty-waiver form, was in fact not, and what he confidently assured us was taken care of, wasn’t.

As of a week ago, our team, customs and DCI were seeing three different situations: our team was under the impression that all appropriate paperwork had been filled out; Customs was appropriately imposing a duty fee (as we didn’t have the correct duty-waiver form); and DCI was in the dark about the whole thing.  It took hours of digging and probing the agents at the DHL and our shipment files, along with the help of the staff at the DCI headquarters office in Freetown, to bring this whole situation to light.

Where did that leave us?

After discovering what had gone wrong, there was still work to do. The DHL employee told us that we would need to pay Le 500,000 (about $150) to the National Revenue Association (NRA) as a duty waiver fee , and that we had to write a letter to some Commissioner (which he graciously helped us get started on) and bring them to him the following day.  So, at 9am the following morning, we showed up with our letter and money only to then be told that the Le 500,000 was the NRA fee and that the DHL agent himself would need Le 300,000 (about $90) for “documentation and acceleration”.  When we (naturally) objected to paying additional fees beyond the previous quote and pressed the DHL man for further explanation, our friend from DCI stepped in to help elucidate, succinctly and clearly, why it was necessary.  “What he is trying to say,” our DCI rep explained, “is that this is Sierra Leone…” (What we heard: The Le 300,000 was for DHL and to grease the palms of the people whose signature we would need if we want to get our laptops before the end of the summer).

It was a classic bait and switch, but at least it was one step closer to the liberation of our laptops.

As of Friday, our paperwork was just about complete and duty waiver almost granted.  We expect the rest to go through today, which means that the laptops will be free to go and on their way… to Freetown?  DHL has been trying to convince us on more than one occasion that, once our shipment is released, we will have to pick it up from their office in Freetown and transport it to Kenema ourselves because they only have the resources to transport small packages all the way to Kenema… even though the receiving address in the contract is in Kenema (not Freetown)… and even though DHL actually has a functioning office in Kenema… and even though there were two big painted yellow DHL vans outside the office that would have plenty of space…

We were told we would be getting the final signature today (Monday) and receiving the laptops sometime later this week. So now we’re waiting with our fingers crossed…

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5 Comments so far
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The le 300,000 ($90)was the DHL brokers’ fee for clearing the shipment as can be verified in our standard published tariff. It has nothing to do with greasing of palms as that is not our ways of doing things. We need to state here that the shipment is not a Duty Delivery Paid shipment implying that all local charges if applicable should be paid by the recipient.We charge brokers fee to process duty free waiver and bill of entry to cover our labour, administrative and operations costs. To acquire the duty free waiver is quite a cumbersome task and uptil now we have not received anything from Katie R and the writer but yet we have started the clearance process. I can assure you that when you pay the le 300k, you will be given a proper DHL receipt.
The le 500,000 ($150) is a duty free processing fee levied by the government of Sierra Leone and it is a local customs clearance requirement which all NGOs who enjoy duty free concession should adhere to.
The delivery address at Kenema is about 200 miles radious of the city and it is an on-forwarding area which requires a cost to deliver 227.3 kg of 100 pieces laptop.
We however feel disappointed about the gross misrepresentation of facts. One would have expected the writer to verify with any senior management team if she really wants clarifications rather assuming what she was told by a colleague.
You have a problem in receiving your laptops because you might have been misinformed by your local representative and the local customs requirements has not been fully met though we are giving you the proffessional guidelines needed.
You really dont need morethan an hour to know your shipment status if you have been well informed by your colleague because we have an adequate system in place to give customers timely update about their shipment.
However, your duty free waiver documnets is still at the ministry for processing.

Mohamed A. Salia

Operations Manager

Comment by Mohamed A. Salia

Thank you for your comment. We look forward addressing all of the issues that you raised once we have received the laptops in Kenema.
~Katie M

Comment by Katie Robinette

This is getting “very interesting”, I can’t wait to find out how it all works out!

Comment by Mom

Thanks Mom! Hopefully, we’ll have an update soon!
~Katie M

Comment by Katie Robinette

Update:
As of 4:40pm Sierra Leone time on 14 July 2009, we have yet to receive our laptops. We were told by our Sierra Leone DHL representative today that an additional fee was necessary to release our laptops from customs, although he guaranteed that they would be in the Freetown DHL office yesterday.

Comment by Katie McCarthy




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