I STILL FEEL AN AUDITOR
Emil Dimitrov, Director of Customs Agency, to the BANKER weekly
Mr. Dimitrov, how does a former auditor feel as a present chief of the customs?
- I still feel an auditor. I've been having so much to do during these two weeks that I haven't have time to become conscious of the fact that I'm a chief. I think the fulfillment of tasks I've set to myself requires that I continue to act as an auditor. I'm not going to collect customs duties. My role will be to exercise control and impose disciplinary penalties for all proven violations.
Which are the most widely spread forms of customs frauds in Bulgaria?
- There are frauds in both exports and imports. Frauds in exports concern the size of value added tax which is refunded. In imports attempts are constantly made to import larger quantities of goods at lowered value, or the imported goods are not at all entered in declarations and customs duties are evaded in that way. When transiting goods different volumes enter the country and go out of it. Thus, certain quantities are illicitly traded on the domestic market.
Could you tell the amount of the real losses inflicted to the budget by such violations?
- Media publications always mention BGL1BN, but I think the amount is considerably greater. Whatever portion of this money we manage to return to the budget, would be good.
Some time ago you said that were you appointed Director of the Customs Agency you would sack some 600 corrupt officers. And now you preferred to keep some of the customs chiefs, reappointing them to lower positions. Could this be interpreted as a retreat from your programme for management?
- I gave a chance to everyone who has worked at the customs administration to prove his loyalty. I told the chiefs of all customs check-points who were reduced in rank but were not dismissed, that I would expect from them loyalalty, honestty and professionalism. Bulgaria is not so rich in staff as to allow me dicharge 4,000 customs officers at once. In two or three months when the temporary contracts expire, contests will be invited for appointing customs chiefs.
In his address on the National Television PM Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha mentioned the customs' future restructuring. Could you describe it in more detail?
- I would not like to comment the Premier's statement. Indeed, we intend a serious restructuring the the customs system. I have worked out a programme to that end, but it has not been approved yet. Therefore, I cannot tell more details.
Did you know that a team of foreign experts would be consulting you when you accepted the invitation to head the customs?
- I've always wanted foreign experts. For that reason I invited the State Internal Financial Control, the National Audit Office, and the Institute of Dimplomaed Expert Accountants, to make a triple audit about the current state of the customs. The conclusions of these institutions will be much more influential than my own stance. Their conclusions will help us make certain decisions on the introduction of revocation of some measuers. Joint work with the foreign consultants will begin on the basis of the audit.
Who will finance the work of these consultants? Will that be their governments?
- We have not considered this issue yet. It's more important for me that as in the case with Mr. Morris Camble, the British Government has set aside finances in order to send him working in Bulgaria.
Have the rights of the Consultative Council of foreign experts, with which you will work in future, been clarified yet?
- It will be a consultative body, helping us make the right decisions. However, the juristic status of that body has not been discussed yet.
When shall we expect foreign inspectors at the border check-points, who will be supervising the work of our customs officers?
- The foreign inspectors will arrive when the implementation of the overall programme for a reform in customs begins. We'll have to ensure them transport, means for communication, food, and accommodation. If the foreign inspectors don't get sufficient legal authorization to exercise control, an official of the Customs Agency will join them. It is important to ensure them full access to everything they are interested in, so that they could get acquainted with all defects and consequently make an assessment if the measures proposed by them have proved efficient.