Air Cargo Imports:

Customs Needs To Overcome Concerns To Benefit From Centralizing Examinations

GGD-88-64: Published: Mar 31, 1988. Publicly Released: Mar 31, 1988.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Customs Service's implementation of its Centralized Examination Stations (CES) Program, specifically its effect on Customs and the importing community.

GAO found that: (1) prior to CES, Customs' cargo inspection process did not ensure compliance with import regulations because the inspections were cursory; (2) Customs provided national guidelines for the establishment and operation of CES and centralized all cargo examinations to help reduce inspectors' travel time and improve service to the importing community; and (3) although the importing community was generally satisfied with CES because Customs inspected and released merchandise more quickly, Customs did not resolve many importers' concerns before it began operations. GAO also found that negative factors affecting the program's acceptance included: (1) Customs' process for selecting CES operators; (2) CES operators' liability for lost, stolen, or damaged merchandise; (3) a lack of guidelines for establishing user and operator fees; (4) CES operators' access to import documentation, giving them an unfair competitive advantage; and (5) the quality of cargo examinations, since inspectors no longer visited carrier facilities and container freight stations.

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