President Saakashvili dismissed Zurab Antelidze, Chairman of the Customs Department, after visiting the Opiza customs terminal and accusing Antelidze of mismanagement on February 21.
Speaking at the government session Saakashvili said management of the Customs Department is ineffective which causes protracted customs clearance procedures and “long queues” of importers.
After his speech, the President accompanied by ministers left for Opiza customs terminal in Tbilisi where he listened to complaints of importers there and then instructed PM Nogaideli to immediately sack chief of the customs department.
“Dismiss everybody from this [customs] service. Recruit new people, give them a GEL 1000 salary, give them exact instructions, so that I will not see any more how people are tortured here,” Saakashvili told PM Nogaideli.
At the government session the President noted that although January was “a record month” in terms of collecting tax revenues, he also said that the customs department fails to deliver a proper service to citizens.
“Most important is how quickly customers are served, how simple and clear the customs procedures are, how comfortable a taxpayer is and whether the relations between such payers and customs or tax bodies are balanced,” Saakashvili said at the government’s session.
“Of course we should protect the market against smuggled goods, but we have simplified the Tax Code and customs procedures and we have practically reduced customs dues to zero rate in order not to complicate the lives of our citizens,” the Georgian President said.
“But if we are really building a free economy, if we really want to attract large investments to our country, if we want our economy, as well as customs, tax departments and other fiscal institutions to develop quickly and dynamically, we should make these structures more citizen-oriented. This means that when a citizen comes to your department he should believe that he is being served with great enthusiasm,” Saakashvili said.
He also stressed the problem of lack of professionalism among the employees of the customs department.
“Lower-level employees are often afraid to make decisions because of a lack of competence, and they think that postponing any decision is the best way out of the situation. In most cases the fiscal institutions blame each other for their inaccuracies, which results in the delay and complication of procedures. In the end, entrepreneurs are the ones who suffer the most,” Saakashvili added.