Pilot program for Department ofBorder Control to begin in 2012
The government will begin a pilot program next year with the Departments of Immigration and Customs, merging the two to become the Department of Border Control, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said yesterday.
“We begin our pilot program in Grand Bahama as soon as office accommodation is completed and ready to launch. We will thereafter introduce this formula around the country, island by island, culminating here in New Providence,”Ingraham said as the first class of crossed-trained customs and immigration officers were inducted yesterday.
The building Ingraham was referring to is an$18 million administrative complex in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The project is expected to be completed by August 2011 and is being built primarily to house those two critical departments.
“So you are a first look at the future of Bahamian border control,”Ingraham said referring to the 55 customs officers and 33 immigration officers who were graduated yesterday.
Ingraham stressed the importance of their jobs.
“Today you join the team responsible for the collection of government’s revenue. Customs duties form the largest and singularly most important source of government revenue–that is revenue which pays your and every other public officer’s salary. It is revenue that provides police and defence force protection to our country. It builds our roads, ports and airports. It is revenue which makes every wheel of government turn. To say that your efficiency is important is an understatement.
“And you join the team responsible for the protection of our borders. You will be the first person visitors to our ports of entry meet; and you will be the person who must determine whether an arriving guest meets the standard to gain entry to our county as either a visitor, a work permit holder or a temporary resident,”he said.
Government revenue collection suffered tremendously during the economic downturn over the past few years. Ingraham said previously that the government has had to borrow money just to keep staffing levels in the public service steady.
During the mid-year budget, Ingraham reported that relative to the corresponding period in fiscal year 2009/2010, revenue collections in the first six months of 2010/2011 were down by approximately$50 million.
Yesterday, he warned the graduates against seeking to steal money from the government.
“We have no tolerance–zero tolerance–for dishonesty, for slackness, for bad company or bad habits. If by some stretch of the imagination you believe that you can sneak something past your supervisor, change your mind now or leave,”he warned.
Ingraham said the system would not consider that”you may have just gotten married, need to pay a child’s school tuition, are helping your family to meet expenses, ran short on your rent money, or need to pay your bank car loan. If you are dishonest you will go”.
He added that”borrowing”the government’s revenue will not be tolerated. The same goes for waiving duties in exchange for monetary tips or incentives.
Ingraham told the graduates that they would be engaged for one year and pending evaluation would be offered permanent employment. He said those who did not meet the standards would be released.