Introduction: Five Clearing Agents Associations signed and launched a Code of Conduct on 11 August 2023. There is a concern as to why Progressive Customs Brokers Association (PCBAZ) did not sign the Code. Ms. Edina Moyo-Mudzingwa, PCBAZ Chairman answers this and other questions below:
Question: Please provide a brief background of the Association.
Answer: The Progressive Customs Brokers Association (PCBAZ) was formed in June of 2023 and an application for recognition was made to the Commissioner of Customs and Excise on 3 July 2023. Our application included PCBAZ`s Code of Ethical Conduct.
Our focus is to advocate for the implementation of best practices in our industry, both in the public and private sectors. We are also focusing on small to medium enterprises in the industry with a view to helping each other to sustain and grow our firms.
Question: Other five Associations signed and launched the Code of Ethical Conduct and your Association did not sign it, are there any special reasons for that?
Answer: We heartily congratulate the other five Associations for signing and launching a Code of Conduct. We wish them all the best as they move to the implementation stage. The Progressive Customs Brokers Association of Zimbabwe already has a World Customs Organisation-compliant Code of Ethical Conduct that is already in place. Whilst we were invited to sign the Code of Conduct, we had procedural issues, as we had not been given a copy of the Code to read and appreciate the contents thereof. Our members had also not read it. Therefore, we could not commit ourselves to abide by the regulations we did not know.
Question: As a new Association, how could you expect to be involved in the drafting of the Code?
Our sister Associations were notified on the 20th of July 2023 of our existence. They could have shared the Code and sought our comments or at least the invitation letter should have come with a copy of the Code. Up to now we don’t have a copy of the Code we were expected to sign. Rubber-stamping the code would short-change our members.
Question: If you are given an opportunity to read and understand the Code, are you going to sign it?
Answer: Remember as PCBAZ we already have a WCO-compliant Code of Ethical Conduct in force amongst our members, and we do not believe that it is mandatory for any Association to sign it. However, our acceptance of the code depends on a number of factors such as does it add value to our members, whether it is easier to enforce than ours, and what legal and financial obligations we will be creating by signing the Code.
We are very sensitive as to how member subscriptions are used. We do not want to end up spending members’ subscriptions on legal fees instead of using the same for training workshops and advertising our members’ businesses. We do not want to be part of something that may increase the cost of doing business. We would consider all this before appending a signature to the code.
We are a member-driven Association and two of our key values are Respect and Democracy. We respect our members and if they instruct us to sign the new Code, we shall do so. People are now conscious of their rights. People want to be consulted when new regulations affecting them are being formulated.
Question: What value are you aiming to add to an industry with 5 other already existing Associations?
Answer: We are here to advocate for the implementation of best practices in our industry. We have a lot of work to do. We need to do a lot of reading about customs best practices and assess how our local procedures compare to them. If there are any gaps, we advocate for the adoption of the best practices.
We will continue working with our sister Associations at local, regional, and continental levels. We will disseminate trade intelligence that we will gather from our networks with our members.
We are also here to promote sustainability and growth of small businesses in the industry especially those being run by the youths. We will deliberately have at least a young person on the Executive Committee.
Question: What practices are you going to avoid in your Association?
Answer: As a progressive association, we believe in constant leadership renewal. We will avoid a culture of career board members. We will balance continuity and leadership renewal. We have time limits on which an individual can serve as an Executive Committee Member.
We have set our standards high. For a person to be nominated to be an Executive Committee Member, one should have a relevant post-secondary school qualification obtained from an accredited examination body and at least 5 years of management experience. Our observation is that most Association leaders in the region are both learned and have vast managerial experience. For ease of interaction, our representatives should be of the same caliber.
We yearn for a time when agenda items of meetings with the Commissioner of Customs will be made up of truly strategic and policy issues instead of operational issues that can be handled by lower-level management. Opportunities to meet the Commissioner should be treasured and not wasted discussing daily operational issues.
Question: Why should people join your Association?
Answer: We are a progressive Association. We are raising the standards in the industry. We respect our members and are very democratic in our operations. We are very transparent about the use of members’ subscriptions. We are here to assist each other to sustain and grow small businesses in the industry.