THERE is a need for the Customs authority to understand that it does not operate in isolation.
Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said the failure of the authority to perform effectively in a short amount of time could have a damaging knock-on effect in the economy.
"I call on you also to remember that you do not work in isolation. You are part of a larger system and a larger process," the PM said while opening the World Customs Organisation regional training centre in Nasese.
"In Fiji, in the past, there has been a trend amongst certain sectors and certain groups to remain confined only to those forums that are seen to be directly relevant to them."
Commodore Bainimarama stressed that any reform and development must be broad and encompass all areas of society.
"Reform in one area can be easily undermined or undone if it is not met by reform in other areas.
"In order to achieve comprehensive reform, all of us must adopt a wide vision and a broad focus. We must, each of us, see the big picture.
"Because reform, ladies and gentlemen, is not simply a top-down process. Yes, it can start that way by establishing the appropriate frameworks and structures, such as the economic, electoral, and constitutional reforms put in place by my government.
"But reform must also be a bottom-up process. In order to truly penetrate to the very core of a society, it requires broad participation and active engagement by all.
"Customs administrations in developing countries are struggling to meet these constantly increasing demands and the new priorities being placed on them, and they urgently need to embrace reform and modernisation. This means an equally aggressive and permanent campaign to simplify and harmonise Customs procedures, which will be the key to facilitating trade.
"This also means, a campaign against corruption and fraud. We must not only put in place modern Customs laws, but we must also diligently ensure compliance with those laws.
"Customs officials are at the front line of revenue collection- they are our representatives at the borders. If they fail to uphold high standards and diligently perform their duties, they bleed the country of tax dollars that can be used to build hospitals, schools and roads.
"We need to ensure that a system is in place where any sort of dishonest or fraudulent behavior is detected and reported, so that it can be met with the full force of the law to let it be known that we are serious about operating in a corruption-free environment."