Minister of Finance Momtaz Al-Saeed, has ordered the formation of two committees, legal and technical, to review contracts with an American company providing X-ray scanning equipment to the Egyptian Custom Authority. He has also requested an expedited submission of reports assessing the functionality, or lack thereof, of such devices.
In 1998, the Ministry of Finance accepted an offer from the Ministry of International Cooperation to import industrial X- ray scanners worth $35 million from the American Science and Engineering Inc. (AS&E).
Three years later, several devices broke down, prompting the Customs Authority to contract Palamar-Misr Maintenance Company to repair the inoperative devices.
In 2006, the government imported another shipment of X-Ray scanners from the AS&E. With the same problems persisting, The Customs Authority called on head of security and financial and management services for technology of AS&E to inform them that their agent Palamar-Misr is no longer cooperative.
“The current X-ray devices are outdated, which leads to congestion in custom passages and delay in their clearance,” customs agent and board member of the Customs Division, Ashraf Atta, said. “They barely operative and have been that way since the tenure of former Minister of Finance Youssef Botrous Ghali.”
“Another flaw with the current devices is the inability to process high-cube 50 feet containers, which facilitates the smuggling of narcotics as well as weapons into the country,” Atta added.
On the other hand, El-Saeed said the existence of faulty scanners would neither affect the efficiency of the Customs Authority, nor does it hinder its ability to confront smuggling of contraband into Egypt.
“All high-ranking customs officials are keen on conserving public funds. The function of the Customs Authority is to supervise the whole task of customs clearance, which is clearing the goods and products coming into the ports. There are set protocols to this procedure and they are properly followed and supervised.” the acting chairman of Egyptian Customs Authority, Mohamed El-Salhawy, said.