Customs Hampered by Lack of Officers

November 25, 2010

bermuda customs formThe Collector of Customs, Winifred Fostine-DeSilva let the cat out of the bag this morning [Nov 25] when she admitted that Bermuda Customs is having difficulty recruiting entry level Customs Officers and this is affecting Custom’s ability to deal with its main duties.

At this morning’s session of the Joint Select Committee investigating causes in the rise in crimes of violence, the Collector of Customs said that there had been 236 applicants for 12 entry level vacancies, but that only 12 of these had passed the written tests with only eight getting through both the written and drug tests.

The Collector said that Bermuda’s Education system was not working as well as it could and this was reflected in these tests.

The Collector gave an example of a typical test question that asked how much Customs Duty must be collected if the value is $450 and the duty rate is 25%. She later said that one of the recent failures was a graduate of a UK university and had a Master’s degree.

In her testimony, she said that because of recruiting problems, Customs were operating short-handed and had twenty vacancies that needed to be filled. She pointed out that by operating short-handed, she had to strip Customs Officers from some key tasks in order to maintain rigorous border controls at Bermuda’s entry points.

Deputy Collector, Mr Pearman, testified that Bermuda had porous borders. He gave the example of a Bermuda boat that goes twenty miles offshore to Challenger Banks and returns to Bermuda without ever being checked. His comment reinforced the Collector of Custom’s assertion that Bermuda’s illegal drugs were sourced from the eastern seaboard of the United States. That though the drug itself might actually originate or be produced in another country, the main point of departure for entry into Bermuda was still the east coast of the USA, and not the Caribbean islands.

The Collector pointed out that guns were easily available anywhere in the USA and could easily be made untraceable or very difficult to trace. After that, guns could be imported in pieces over time and by many other means. The answer in gun interdiction lay in having good Customs Officers at the right places and able to use their legal powers, skills, and technology to best advantage. She pointed out that no country has achieved a 100% interdiction rate for drugs and other illicit imports but that, in her view, Bermuda does well.

The Joint Select Committee continues to meet.

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  1. Unemployables | November 25, 2010
  1. Tired of nonsense says:

    Simple solution…

    Just don’t drug test…follow the leader’s lead

  2. what a sad statement says:

    “…the Collector of Customs said that there had been 236 applicants for 12 entry level vacancies, but that only 12 of these had passed the written tests..” Now if that isn’t a sad statement, I don’t know what is. Herein lies the problem Bermuda – get your people educated!! Please don’t start blaming the test and dumbing it down either – that will only exacerbate the problem initially created by somebody’s wise decision to lower the already low standards and dumb down the high school graduating requirements…

    • Um just sayin says:

      She also said that one of the recent failures was a graduate of a UK university and had a Master’s degree.

      Go figure!!!!!!!

  3. Uncle Ruckus says:

    When were they hiring? I’ve been looking to apply. Holla @ me Winnie.

  4. Nikki S says:

    Well damn…if this hasn’t been one of the saddest things I have seen regarding our people…i don’t know what is! How do you apply to be CUSTOMS officer n fail the DRUG testing!! Bermuda…this is serious!

  5. terry says:

    Beekawz arrybuddy his horn drugz……Wal…ah hal uv ah lutt har……………..Jingus……………

  6. Brasco says:

    It’s not about the drug testing….the Customs exam/excersise is stupid!….I’ve been through the process and exam…here’s why people have difficulty…

    They give you a study package the same week you’re asked to sit an exam.

    They want you to know all about customs and how it runs, who are the main officers, their ranks, top drug trafficing countries, etc…..then you have to choose one out of the three subjects and write a 250 word essay….

    How do you expect a person to cram all this information about customs in 5 working days?!?!?

    And to top it off, the questions on the test ARE NOT relating to the study package given?!?!?!?!?…..The only realistic part of the exam is the essay….the rest of the test is a hit or miss. You are never notified of your result to even see if your answers were realistic.

    If you’ve never experienced interacting with a customs officer then do not apply because you will be S.O.L. ((This should be in the line of the application))

    FYI, you’re not drug tested at exam level….once you pass the exam (only time you know if you passed if you don’t receive a Human Rescource Letter stating you were not short listed) you move onto a interview

    Come on Mrs. DeSilva, we’re asked to apply as a trainee not an already qualified Customs Officers.

    Being drug free and having a high school diploma of course helps your situation, but having to do an exam blind folded is a bit unrealistic and misleading to the public.

    • Uncle Ruckus says:

      That’s a lie. I have two relatives who are customs officers and they do not give you a week to do all that. You take classes, you study and they give you a lot of time before the big exam.

      • Brasco says:

        Uncle Ruckus, check your cousins again….you DO NOT have classes when you’re applying for a Trainee Position exam…..you’re given a study package the SAME week of the entry exam

    • Whoyafoolin says:

      Sounds just like some of the interview processes for the higher ranking positions! Someone needs to make sure those in senior management positions have all the qualifications required for the positions they currently hold. They should scrap the term ‘interview process’ and just call it a process of elimination. If they don’t like you, they eliminate you without even looking at your application…the name is the only thing that’s important to them. It’s sad…but true!!

  7. observer says:

    This is one of those times where you have to laugh so you don’t cry, right?

  8. Veebyes says:

    Surely she does not expect them to figue out such a complex problem without the use of the calculator function in their blackberries! She is taking a huge risk with such honesty. Hope she still has a job next week & not retiring due to ‘personal’ reasons.

  9. Roslynn says:

    Brasco today you have made me happy!!! We are on the same page!!!In Mrs. Desilva’s claim of there being 236 applicants for every 12 entry level vacancies and that out of the twelve only 8 passed the written test and drug test…I would like to point out to “what a sad statement” said about Bermudians needing to get educated..Mrs. Desilva neglected to say that not everyone of those 236 applicants had been called back to take those tests..thus she is giving misleading figures..what she should have said is that out of those that were called back only 8 passed the necessary test.. I know of four young black men that are drug free, have no record, have finished school, etc but yet they received letters to say that they were not successful!! so I challenge her so called honestly and coming clean…because she is not giving the full picture and she is presenting misleading figures…Tell the damn truth that whomever is responsible for recruitment did not go through the over three boxes full of applicants received during the last recruitment drive that was held earlier this year!!! So Customs have no reason to “be hampered by lack of officers” go back to those boxes of applications received if you haven’t thrown them away already!!..You don’t know how F*&^(ng! irritated i am by seeing this article! what a crock of S*&T! How dear she even bring this to the public knowing full well that not ALL of the applicants received “call backs” Such a crock of S*&t! like I am thoroughly pissed off!!! false numbers folks!!!!!

    • Brasco says:

      Me personally, she shouldn’t be the Collector Of Customs, she seems to be in Cyber space.

      • Roslynn says:

        For Real!! because something is just not adding up..and I’m not talking about the failing test results either!!!!

  10. observer says:

    Man now I want to see if the exam is as hard as Brasco is making it out to be. Where can I get this ~information package~?

    • Brasco says:

      just go to the Customs.gov.bm website and you can get the basic information….trust me, the test is LEFT FIELD!!

      • observer says:

        haha I’d be denied straight up because I don’t own my own transportation. That’s a bit hilarious.

        • Whoyafoolin says:

          Yeah it is…What the Finance Minister needs to fix is the bs requirement for new officers to have their own transportation for work purposes while the managers cool out at home nights with GPs parked up in their yards (one household has 2 GP cars).

  11. jenna says:

    I can think of one or two great applicants that they denied employment too…who knows how many others…using these types of excuses is a cop out

    • Roslynn says:

      I totally agree with you Jenna!! I’m still all hyped by the article!! A bunch of BS if you ask me!!!!

  12. LOL says:

    Former Customs officer here….. Customs is poorly managed starting from the top, the term ‘internal politics’ reaches an all new level there. What’s not mentioned in this article is that SEVERAL officers have left over the years, for a host of reasons but one of them is the low morale that runs through the establishment. Customs was once a career that once you joined, you never left. Now it’s a revolving door of get in, get what you can out of it, and get out before you lose your insanity with all the internal bullsh#t.

    • Brasco says:

      Our new Premier needs to read these comments and Fix this A.S.A.P.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…….

      ALSO THE REASON FOR THE NEW X-RAY VISION FOR CONTAINERS IS HOGWASH!!…..IT’S ONLY SO JOHN W. SWAN’S NEW TENANTS DON’T HAVE TO LOOK AT CONTAINERS TRUCKS EVERYDAY OF THEIR STOCK MARKET LIVES

      • SMH says:

        Brasco/LOL- I agree with you 100% I know someone very close to me that is currently at Customs. It is too much internal conflict and the morale is extremely low. The person I speak of applied for a promotion internally, met all the qualifications and was not even granted the respect to be told that they were not selected for the position. They found out when they saw another applicant had filled the role. No formal notification was even given to announce the new person in the spot! If this is what some one internally faces, those looking to come in do not stand a chance. In my opinion it is extremely miss managed and it filters through the entire organization.

        With regaards to the New X-ray machine…ha…that was supposed to be on this island years ago. This was all before the guns started to make its way onto this island. The purchase of the machine was scrapped from the budget…I wonder why?

        To make matters worst a vast majority of these officers try and execute their job and constantly get kicked in the @.. by senior management. We all know if you come through the airport and are dishonest on your declaration form your items and be confiscated..This has happened to many people, but it is a slap in the face as an officer who does this and then gets a call that the items need to be returned immediately because the goods where taken from an SVP of an international business….I guess the rules do not apply to them.

        With all of that been said, I do not feel Mrs Desilva has given a fair and accurate view of what is actually happening. It is a society for those who want to lay down and play dead to get ahead and those who actually care about the job they are required to do and therefore are the outcast and are treated unfairly.

        Plain and simple a complete shake up needs to happen there…Maybe if it did you would get more successful applicants. Just a thought….

  13. lastchancenobreaks95 says:

    I applied a few times all i got back each time was a letter saying keep trying srry you didn’t make it. everytime i called to speak with the person in charge all they kept saying was oh well your not the only one. Bad phone skills, is a problem in government operated agencies anyway. They lie to you,in order to hire people in their family or freinds. That is the TRUTH!!! I’m a high school & college grad no police record six yrs security experience. This island will never come out of this state we are in cause we have people in positions who just don’t CARE!!! LOTTA BULLSH**^*(S!!!

    • Roslynn says:

      I agree with you on that one! take a look at her comments (Desilva’s) in tomorrows edition of the RG…still sticking to the fact that out of the 236 applicants that only 8 passed the test…no mention that out of the 236 applicants that “X” amount of them received “Dear John” letters telling them “not this time buddy, don’t call us, we’ll call you!” So her figures are inaccurate!! whose to say that the “Dear John” receivers would not have passes the test? like I mentioned in an earlier comment I know of 4 individuals who received such letters! School graduates, don’t do drugs, have no record and they even have their own transportation…do tell why they were not selected..how come they were not placed on an “alternates list” so that in the event that they have people that were unsuccessful in passing test (which they did) then they could come in and sit the test? Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is the way that it should have been done…but i guess that’s way too time consuming to have all 236 applicants sit the test…at any rate I guess we will have to continue to hear her constant drivel and blah blah blah how only 8 were successful and now we’re shorthanded!!! and than she will blame it on education to take the blame off of her…I wonder how many of the “dear john” letter receivers have received a call since……

      • Just the facts says:

        Perhaps the reason that they don’t keep previous applications for future exercises is the fact that Customs still has the Human Resource department as the final voice on who is selected. Perhaps these 4 individuals have another mark against them that someone was aware of that you are not. Yes I am sure a alternate list would be great but if the HR department says you must start from scratch each time you need people what else can they do?

        • Whoyafoolin says:

          Am I seeing right? They may have another mark against them that someone was aware of that we are not. So that is how it works in the Human Resource Department! Are the applicants made aware of this or even informed of the reason for the mark against them? What happened to due process?? There are also some things that some individuals know about the HR Department that the majority of the public don’t know.

          If a civil servant who admitted using someone else’s ATM card to withdraw money from their bank account was rewarded with a transfer to another government department (in a higher paying position), how can you make such a statement about other individuals being held back because they possibly have a mark against their names? (I know the person whose account it was taken from and I know what transpired). So…marks are only placed against certain people’s names?

  14. LOL says:

    Winifred Fostine-Desilva was eligible to retire quite a few years ago. She’s just dead weight collecting $100k plus, holding up junior officers from advancing. Though if I know customs, they’ll simply bring someone else in from outside the ranks with zero local customs experience. Happened twice in the past 7 years, first time was some Canadian woman brought in who didn’t know her ass from her elbow. The second was some joker brought in from the courts who fits the same description. Yeah, believe me, I got all the stories.

    The more accurate title for this story should be ‘Customs hampered by lack of good management’. Shit starts at the top, and rolls downhill from there.

  15. Whoyafoolin says:

    The 70s mindset of the Collector is obsolete in 2010…40 years WOW!!! What could she possibly bring to the table that’s up-to-date? Wasn’t she the same one who, just a few years ago, said gun smuggling was not common in Bermuda?

    Now her assistant is sayin some BS about a boat not being checked when it returns from Challenger Banks…like he’s done something about it. Is he hoping they’ll purchase a new boat so he can have an excuse to skive off on the water like he’s obviously been doing for many years on land!! He was one of the laziest C.O.s the dept. has ever seen…Has anything changed? His drug seizure record can attest to that…I’m sure!

    The line about test scores is getting old. It’s clear to me what the real problem is. What excuse did the Governor use when he encouraged the former Commissioner of Police to retire? He thought 4 years was long enough…hmmmmmmmmmm!!!

  16. itwasn't me says:

    If I take a test, I deserve to know how well or how bad I did. A cedarbridge dropout can figure out 25% of any amount……someting is missing from the Collector’s comments. I think the ‘inhouse’ selection process needs to be done away with. Let HR handle the academic testing, let MAWI staff evaluate mental competence.

  17. Arthur Raynor - Atlanta says:

    This failure problem (of getting enough people) was highlighted a few months ago with the Fire Service not able to get people to pass the drug test. Over 25 years ago I stated in the Royal Gazette and put together a written report and wrote to three of Bermuda’s Premier’s that we needed a helicopter to help patrol Bermuda’s offshore waters and help combat drug importation. This idea was denied and also scoffed at both verbally and in writing. Now we have a major problem with both drugs and guns which can be “picked” up 20 miles offshore during a “pleasure” boat trip. Even other countries can fish in our 200 mile territory waters and we have no way of knowing monitoring or patrolling them. Sad but true!
    P.S. Still have copies to and reply letters from the Premier’s in my files.

  18. Whoyafoolin says:

    The problem seems to be that those who prepared the test probably haven’t been tested themselves. The majority of the senior managers are lacking in educational qualifications, and that’s a fact. I’ve heard stories like some of the senior managers in Customs have refused to get educational qualifications or failed tests themselves, and alternate arrangements were made to accommodate some of them. Don’t they currently have some senior managers in Customs who also failed tests or courses but were still promoted? Weren’t they given an opportunity to improve their scores? How many of those applicants who allegedly failed the test have been given a second chance to improve their scores? Is this a case of ‘Do as we say and not as we do’?

  19. US Observer says:

    Wow..Roslynn was able to type a message without using a curse word. Amazing. And you wonder why people are not applying themselves by not passing basic and uneducated tests? Oh that’s right…the last time I was in Bermuda cursing was the norm.

    • Um Juss Sayin says:

      And you come from such a stellar country with its 14.9 million unemployed and deficit out the wazu! I am Bermudian and cursing isn’t the norm, but I don’t knock Roslynn, she obviously has passion for the topic. Funny thing how you Americans poke your nose in everywhere but where it’s needed: your own backyard.

    • Peace and Love says:

      US Observer don’t go there..where I reside we are allowed freedom of speech.. I am well educated thank you, have my degrees, am certified in Theraputic Crisis Intervention, have worked as a Paralegal and currently am sporting a 4.0 GPA so “don’t try and watch me!”as the young folks say ..worry about where your from..I’m guessing it’s where all the saints live since my “cursing” seems to offend you..Look in your daily paper and comment on an article in there! Don’t try and base Mrs. DeSilva’s falsified numbers she has presented to the public on how I have written my comment…Just because my words seem “off” to you I can clearly say to you because of my academic background..”Don’t judge a book by it’s cover!” ..I’m sure the USA Today, Boston Globe or New York Times has an article that you can comment on..Have a blessed weekend!!! Peace and Love (aka Roslynn)

  20. fergie says:

    This is a sad state of affairs. The Bermuda fire department had a similar problem some of the applicants failed the drug test. Not sure if they failed the written test.

  21. Jim Bean says:

    Fact is the test is a breeze and people still fail. Pathetic!

    • Whoyafoolin says:

      If there were only a dozen entry level vacancies and 236 applicants, 224 of those should have been sent ‘Dear John’ letters, so I would imagine that the easiest route was to eliminate those who had the ability to pass the exam based on their academic qualifications. The next step was to choose from the remaining pool, a small number of applicants for testing purposes to achieve the desired result. What the Collector failed to say is that the favored applicants were selected before the testing process began. (Not supposed to work like this but…anything goes in the civil service). Just tell the public anything – this response has worked all these years…as long as the union’s on our side, who cares?

      • Roslynn says:

        @ Um Juss Sayin and Whoyafoolin I say Mwuahhh!! love you guys!!! on point!!

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