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Cambodia hires world's largest import auditors

Cambodia hires world's largest import auditors

I N another step toward the rehabilitation of Cambodia's economic infrastructure,

Cambodia has secured the services of the world's largest pre-shipment

inspectors.

Swiss company Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) began

work on Sept 1. It has nearly 33,000 employees in 140 countries around the

world. They undertake more than one million inspections each year, and also

operate in the ASEAN countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the

Philippines.

Pre-shipment inspections - inspecting, testing and verifying

goods ordered into Cambodia by importers - is an important tool in ensuring that

correct taxes and tariffs are charged, and "swindles" such as under-declaring

goods are limited, and penalized if found.

SGS's appointment comes about

one year after an aborted attempt by former Finance Minister Sam Rainsy to

introduce the same service from a British-based company, Inchcape

Services.

Inchcape briefly set up in Rainsy's office, but before it could

begin work its contract was canceled by the government. Inchcape's demise was a

public example of how deep the rift had progressed between Rainsy - who was

trying to force through a series of economic measures - and government leaders,

who believed Rainsy was working independently of government consensus.

A

recently-issued "Notice to Importers" from the government says the objectives of

the inspection service is to ensure fair competition to favor investment and

ensure appropriate duties and taxes are collected. Inspections are compulsory

for all imported goods exceeding $5,000.

"Our job is to check the

quality, quantity and condition of goods an importer ordered from the country of

origin," said SGS executive Eran Banon of Geneva, who added SGS will be

investing $1 million in Cambodia before the end of the year.

SGS prepares

its reports to the government free of charge. Importers foot SGS's costs through

a new one percent tax on imported goods.

The Swiss company will be

employing 35 local workers, 20 of whom will be trained in SGS subsidiaries

around the world.

Olivier Droz, 27, SGS's contract manager in Cambodia,

says: "I hope within a year we will guarantee fair competition between

importers."

Droz said the Royal government's contract with SGS "was done

by honest people, who don't want to see any more dumping by dishonest companies

leading others to bankruptcy."

However, a foreign expert, who requested

not to be named, said the problem of tax dodgers would not be solved

overnight.

"It is a political problem. Corruption in the Customs has been

much reduced, but the system still needs improvement. The Code of Customs has

been waiting for promulgation for several months now," he said.

SGS will

operate in coordination with the Bureau of Customs under the supervision of the

Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Commerce.

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