Innovating the organizational model of anti smuggling activities of Vietnam Customs


Director of the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department Nguyen Hung Anh
Director of the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department Nguyen Hung Anh

Viewpoints and orientations of the Party and State on innovating the organizational model of anti-smuggling activities of the Customs agency

On October 25, 2017, the Politburo issued Resolution No. 18-NQ/TW on continuing to innovate and organize the apparatus of the political system to be streamlined and operate effectively and efficiently. On November 9, 2022, at the Sixth Conference, the 13th Party Central Committee issued Resolution No. 27-NQ/TW on continuing to build and perfect the Vietnamese socialist state ruled by law in the new period. Resolution identifies tasks and solutions: “Continue to review, adjust, and perfect the functions, tasks, and organizational apparatus of investigation agencies and agencies assigned to conduct a number of investigation activities in a neat, concise, professional, quality, effective and efficient manner, meeting assigned requirements, tasks and contributing to ensuring human rights and civil rights for detainees, arrestees, custody and temporary detention according to the provisions of law.

In Resolution No. 41/NQ-CP dated June 9, 2015 of the Government on promoting the fight against smuggling, trade fraud and counterfeit goods in the new situation, a number of tasks and solutions have been identified, which emphasized: “Strengthen the force working against smuggling, trade fraud and counterfeit goods in a focused, specialized manner, clearly defining responsibilities by area and field.”

On November 24, 2017, the National Assembly issued Resolution No. 56/2017/NQ-QH on continuing to reform the organization of the state administrative apparatus to make it more efficient and effective. Thus, the viewpoint of the Party and State always thoroughly grasps the principles of innovating and organizing the apparatus of the political system to be streamlined and operate effectively and efficiently towards each field and task to be implemented and undertaken by a specialized agency.

For the Customs sector, the Customs Development Strategy to 2030 determines that the Customs industry organizational system will be innovated with a streamlined and reasonable structure, reducing intermediaries. Promote the development and implementation of a capacity-based human resource management model based on job position.

Regarding organizational structure, a 3-level customs organization will be built (General Department level, Regional level and Branch level) in the direction of streamlining, reducing intermediaries, ensuring effective and efficient operations to meet the management requirements according to the centralized and smart customs operations model.

Professional activities of the Northern Regional Sea Control Squadron (Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department). Photo: T.Binh
Professional activities of the Northern Regional Sea Control Squadron (Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department). Photo: T.Binh

Current status of the Customs agency’s anti-smuggling organization model

Over the past time, the organizational structure, personnel and activities of the Customs anti-smuggling control force from the Central to the grassroots level have gradually been strengthened in accordance with the provisions of the Customs Law. Accordingly, anti-smuggling departments at all levels are gradually improving, ensuring structure, quality, and effective and efficient operating methods, relatively suitable for each area, creating favorable conditions for trade, contributing to promoting socio-economic development, protecting national border security and ensuring state management requirements on customs.

Specifically, the Ministry of Finance and the General Department of Customs have proactively developed criteria and organized the establishment and rearrangement of the apparatus in the direction of streamlining, effectiveness and efficiency, meeting management requirements. The organizational structure of anti-smuggling units in the customs organization system is basically kept stable; The Customs Department’s organizational structure was built by taking into account the characteristics of the management area of each unit.

Working methods in units of the customs organizational system in general and anti-smuggling forces in particular have been gradually improved and innovated towards greater transparency and efficiency, contributing to actively participate in the streamlining process and perfecting the organizational structure. Regarding reviewing and arranging the organizational apparatus, the Customs sector has proactively established and rearranged the organizational apparatus in the direction of streamlining, effectiveness and efficiency to meet management requirements.

The Ministry of Finance issued Decision 2015/QD-BTC dated September 6, 2017 on criteria for establishing and reorganizing customs branches under provincial, inter-provincial and municipal city customs departments; Decision 2094/QD-BTC on criteria for establishing and reorganizing teams (teams) of customs branches and equivalent customs departments of provinces, inter-provinces and central cities towards innovation in human resources management according to capacity based on job position is one of the important tasks of the Sector to meet the demands of society and the requirements of the Party and State.

Therefore, in recent times, especially in 2018, the Customs sector has strongly implemented this task by perfecting the working position system; Evaluate the capacity of civil servants to execute in a number of key areas; Gradually applying it to the organization of personnel, so many local customs units such as Quang Ninh, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong, Lang Son, etc. Thereby, gradually organizing and rearranging the organizational structure towards streamlining intermediate-level focal points, while meeting management requirements for each Customs Department area.

Specifically, establish 9 Customs Sub-department to meet workload requirements; established 1 and dissolved 4 Post-clearance Audit Sub-department; Established 1 Customs Good Verification Sub-department; Dissolve 13 Divisions under the Department; Merging 14 Customs Sub-departments, 34 Divisions and equivalent units under the Customs Department (reducing 54 focal points); The Customs sector has reviewed and arranged to reduce 235 Teams (Groups) under the Customs Sub-department, Customs Control Team and equivalent units.

However, the Customs agency’s model of organizing anti-smuggling activities still has some limitations. That is, the organizational model of anti-smuggling activities that has been arranged and organized since 1990 has basically remained unchanged. The organization of models and forces working on anti-smuggling work is horizontal.

At the Central level, the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department (18 units under the Department) manages the entire country. At the local level, the Customs Departments of provinces and cities (Customs Control Team, Drug Prevention Control Team, Teams and Groups doing supervision and control work under the Sub-department) manage according to assigned areas. The current organization and arrangement of the anti-smuggling unit organization system does not ensure continuity in unified professional direction from the central to local levels.

Regarding functions, tasks and scope of activities, the Customs agency is the agency assigned to carry out some initial investigation activities (not allowed to exercise the powers of the specialized investigation agency) for smuggling crimes. Anti-smuggling activities of the Customs agency are newly regulated in a number of specific areas (narrow scope).

Especially in maritime areas, there is no clear division of responsibilities between the Customs and the Coast Guard in anti-smuggling activities. The authority of the Customs agency in combating smuggling is not commensurate with the assigned tasks.

This is reflected in the regulations on the authority of the Customs authority to prevent violations when detecting violations or the mechanism to ensure the effectiveness of the investigation, verification and clarification of violations and the authority to handle violations of Customs authorities (administrative, criminal) for violations of the law in the field of customs when performing border control tasks.

Through research on the organizational models of customs in different countries, it has been shown that to carry out border control, countries build a specialized Customs force, often named anti-smuggling agency or customs police (China, Philippines, etc). This specialized control force is organized from the central to local levels, often following two main models.

Firstly, the customs anti-smuggling agency includes: The specialized anti-smuggling agency at the Central Government is named the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department; Anti-smuggling Teams under the Regional Customs Department or under the Central Anti-Smuggling Agency. With this model, local customs sub-departments still have the function of anti-smuggling, but do not have a specialized force, simply performing customs procedures.

The second model is similar to the first model, but at the branch level, a specialized anti-smuggling department is formed in parallel with the customs unit to carry out customs procedures.

Based on the Resolution of the Party and Government on reforming and rearranging the state apparatus, reducing staffing and orientation in the Customs Development Strategy to 2030, the Customs sector will arrange and organize the the apparatus of 35 Customs Department of provinces and cities into Regional Customs. Vietnam can study and learn from the experiences of countries following the first model in organizing regional customs.

Accordingly, building a customs control force at the central level is the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department, and at the local level, forming a Regional Anti-Smuggling Team that can belong to the Anti-Smuggling Investigation Department or the Regional Customs Department.

Along with perfecting the legal basis, the Customs sector needs to thoroughly grasp and direct closely to create drastic changes in awareness from leaders at all levels to civil servants on anti-smuggling work; assign targets and evaluate targets for customs professional measures, targets on the number of cases of arrest for violations, the number of cases with criminal signs that require criminal prosecution to increase deterrence.

Clearly assign and decentralize the authority of specialized units in charge of customs control, officers in the unit and strengthen inspection and examination work in the Sector, ensuring officers doing Customs control work to comply with the law well; Closely coordinate with authorities to ensure compliance with legal regulations; Build a team of criminal investigation officers with sufficient capacity, quality and legal knowledge.


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