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Controller General of the Department, Nimalka Dias speaking to Weekend Nation said the reason for a separate investigations unit was to check whether all importers adhere to the terms and conditions laid out by the department before granting them the licence to import

The government has initiated stringent measures to streamline imports to Sri Lanka by establishing a separate investigations unit to monitor the importers.

Accordingly, the Department of Import and Export Control is currently in discussions with the Attorney General’s Department, pertaining to establishing the investigation division.
Controller General of the Department, Nimalka Dias speaking to Weekend Nation said the reason for a separate investigations unit was to check whether all importers adhere to the terms and conditions laid out by the department before granting them the licence
to import.

Accordingly, the department has not been given powers to monitor the importers on whether they adhere to the conditions set out prior to giving them the licence to import.
“Through this we will establish a mechanism to keep a tab on importers island-wide. This is to ensure that they import quality items,” she said.

The department issues a licence for the importation of items that are grouped under five categories.
The categories include drugs, telecommunication and electrical equipment, vehicles and miscellaneous items. “We are currently in discussions with the Attorney General’s Department,” Dias said.
Under miscellaneous items, the department issues licence for the importation of live animals and animal products, monofilament fishing nets, tea, explosives, arms and ammunitions, timber, coins and medals, sports goods, sludge oil, metal scraps, metal waste and other waste materials specified by basal convention and plastic packaging Items.

The importation of these items has to be authorized by the relevant departments, boards or ministries that handle the specific subject.
The importance of a monitoring system for imported products was highlighted by medical experts and officials when the government inroduced the price controls for 47 drugs last month.

It was pointed out by officials and stakeholders that such a system was needed to ascertain the source and destination of drugs and pharmaceuticals in case they bring down substandard items which would cause harmful effects for patients when used.
In addition it was also pointed out that such a move to regulate prices would result in some of the major players from the West withdrawing that could give rise to substandard products to enter the market.
The department also lacks a comprehensive database which lists the importers and exporters of the country.
The lack of such a database is also one of the reasons behind the moves for the establishment of a monitoring system. However, for an importer or an exporter to obtain a licence, the said party should be registered as a business which is involved in the said business.

“The business registration should describe what kind of business they are doing. They should submit that document to us as well. Only then would we give them a licence,” Assistant Controller of the Department, Kumidini Vidyalankara said.
She further said they were in the process of upgrading their systems and added that the department did not have a database of all importers and exporters since the licence obtaining process required the relevant documentation.

However, Vidyalankara pointed out that the licence would be valid for three months which could be amended and extended every three months.
“We have a lot of small-time organizations and individuals who are now importing goods for businesses. Therefore, we need to upgrade our systems so that we could accommodate them in the list,” she said.

She pointed out that there were businesses which required imports on a daily basis. As an example, she said that mobile phone imports were carried out on a daily basis and the relevant importers which includes companies and individuals, had to be present at the department frequently for the paperwork to be carried out.

“There are those who import one consignment and then do not import anything after that for a long time. Then there are people who never import again after their first consignment. An upgraded database would help us to recover the details of such people without having to go through the process all over again,” Vidyalankara added.
“We hope to launch the new system next year through which the whole process will be streamlined”.