Sri Lanka Customs in yet another landmark initiative towards making the import and export process seamless has partnered with LankaClear to introduce LankaSign digital signatures for online document submission.
This was ceremonially launched under the patronage of State Minister of Finance, Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal, at an event held at Sri Lanka Customs auditorium recently adhering to strict COVID-19 guidelines. Deputy Secretary to the Treasury R.M.P. Rathnayake, Director General of Customs Major General (Retd.) G. Vijitha Ravipriya, Central Bank Director Payments and Settlement Dharmasri Kumaratunge, LankaClear Chairman Dr. Kenneth De Zilwa, and LankaClear GM/CEO Channa de Silva were also present at the event.
Import/export process has a huge bearing on a country’s Ease of Doing Business index. This is also considered a critical factor in attracting foreign direct investments. For many years, document submission to Sri Lanka Customs was a manual process. Ending this cumbersome and ineffective process, Sri Lanka Customs introduced online document submission following the migration to ASYCUDA World in 2012. As a result, declarants were able to submit scanned images of import/export documents to Sri Lanka Customs.
However, the use of electronic signatures for the current document submission process was found to be vulnerable in the face of rising cyber security threats worldwide. As a solution, Sri Lanka Customs partnered with LankaClear in introducing LankaSign digital signatures for documents submitted to Sri Lanka Customs. Addressing the gathering Ajith Nivard Cabraal stated, “These types of progressive initiatives would improve the entire business process and ensure Sri Lanka climes up the Ease of Doing Business index by a few notches. I commend the efforts of Sri Lanka Customs officials to further improve the business climate in the country.”
For the proposed system to work seamlessly, importers, exporter, banks, clearing agents need to sign up online with LankaSign to obtain digital signatures. LankaSign is Sri Lanka’s only commercially operating certification authority approved by the National Certification Authority Task Force, which is the governing body for digital certification service providers in the country. LankaSign complies with Electronic Transactions Act, No. 19 of 2006 and Amendment Act No. 25 of 2017, hence all documents that are signed using LankaSign digital signatures are accepted in a Court of Law.
The operating environment of LankaSign complies with the world-renowned PCI-DSS version 3.2 certification, the highest international standards for data security, in addition to being ISO 27001:2013 certified using military grade security appliances.
Applauding the efforts of his ICT team at Sri Lanka Customs Major General (Retd.) G. Vijitha Ravipriya said, “I am proud to be a part of this latest initiative of our team where numerous steps have been taken to completely automate the Customs clearing process. This latest automation would immensely benefit the traders to carry out their clearing process with minimal difficulties. It will also help our staff to process the clearing requests in a much more efficient manner with greater security.”
Signing up for LankaSign is a simple online process of submitting a duly completed application form and involves no significant investment, apart from a nominal charge for the security token and a small annual certification fee for unlimited document signing. This makes LankaSign an affordable and a more practical option for document signing especially during a period such as the COVID-19 pandemic where the public is advised to restrict travel and gatherings.
LankaClear Chairman Dr. Kenneth De Zilwa said, “LankaClear is a successful Public-Private-Partnership that was established in 2002 initially for the purpose of clearing interbank cheques. In 2006, we setup the first automated Cheque Imaging and Truncation System as the first entity in South Asia and the second in the World to do so. LankaClear has also facilitated automated payments towards customs declarations since 2017 and I am happy to be associated with this latest initiative of Sri Lanka Customs to completely automate the document submission process in a secure and an efficient manner by using LankaSign digital signatures.”
As another joint initiative with the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank and LankaClear, Sri Lanka Customs introduced online payments to Customs via LankaPay Online Payment Platform in 2017, facilitating the importers to make Customs payments real time on 24x7x365 basis, conveniently and securely via their internet or mobile baking platforms. This system is currently connected to 14 banks in the country and facilitates approximately Rs. 15 billion worth of transactions towards customs declarations for a month.