The Lack Of Cooperation Commerce Essay

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For a long time, there has been little or no success in improving border operations due to many issues that arise. One such issue has been the lack of cooperation or coordination among the different border agencies. This issue has been so rampant that it has contributed largely to the many technical, bureaucratic, and process-oriented inefficiencies that are more often than not, observed at borders. This lack of cooperation has been seen to occur mostly in an agency specific trend, so much so that different border agencies such as the customs administration and the immigration department are not in sync. When there is no cooperation between the different agencies, reforms are bound to be limited to each agency and not carried out in the wider realm. This paper examines this phenomenon and tries to provide ways in which collaboration and general reforms can be fostered in the general border sector. It is however true that there is a big gap when it comes to cooperation efforts towards reform, among border agencies.

Lack of Cooperation:

There could be a number of reasons why the lack of cooperation between border agencies has persisted for so long. One of the chief reasons that have been identified is the competition and rivalry among the various border management agencies. In this perspective, different border agencies have viewed each other as competitors instead of partners so that whenever there are reforms to be undertaken, the process is not extended or shared with other departments but is rather kept internal within each agency (Perkman 2003). Each agency sees itself as an independent entity with its own internal goals and aspirations. Each agency endeavors to make itself the most successful and outstanding, such as in terms of performance while neglecting the other agencies.

Cooperation has also been hampered by governance and veracity issues so that bad or distrustful management and leadership practices have led to integrity issues. When one agency cannot trust the other agency due to suspicion and integrity issues, the chances of collaboration between the different agencies becomes slim. When this occurs, any reforms that are undertaken remain agency specific in an effort by the agencies to out-do each other.

In comparison to other government agencies, such factors as generally weaker leadership and lack of sufficient political government support have also been cited as reasons for lack of cooperation (Australian Federal Police 2003). The process of border control is one that requires professional and strict management practices for things to run smoothly. Whenever there is weak leadership, the insight and knowledge to foster collaborative work between different agencies is weakened. Also, border agencies require reinforcement from the government for instance, in terms of process improvement. If government helps spearhead or participates in the reform process, then such elements as cooperation are bound to be insisted on. With the government watching closely, cooperation between different border agencies will be implemented smoothly.

One may also ask how such factors as out-of-date and markedly bureaucratic border clearance processes affect cooperation efforts and in turn broad sector based and not agency based reforms. This factor causes effect in one way: whenever one agency updates its procedures say by the implementation of the latest technology, the other agency maintains its old systems. The resultant effect is that technology clashes with the traditional pen and paper way of doing things. It then becomes difficult for agencies to keep switching back and forth between the use of technology and the lack of it whenever there is a need or intention to collaborate. This phenomenon eventually means that agencies are not at par in their clearance processes and reforms cannot be carried out at par as well. One agency will be lagging behind.

It is generally agreeable that Information Systems and Technology can go a long way in making cooperation and coordination efficient and effective. This is so say through such elements as computer networking and database management. As a matter of fact, most modern day organizations and work places use computer networks to smooth coordination efforts and create efficiency. However, in most border agencies, the ICT aspect has not yet been embraced fully. There is still a significant knowledge gap in border agencies on how to take advantage of innovative IT solutions and techniques (UNCTAD 2011). This in turn hinders the smooth application of sector wide reforms and only those agencies or departments that have somehow embraced some level of ICT undertake such reforms.

The factors stated above are some of the reasons why general reforms in the border agencies are often hampered by agency specific actions. The need for agencies to outperform each other, the general mistrust that persists between them, the lack of effective management and leadership are some of the factors leading to this lack of cooperation. Furthermore, the disparity in technology and use of ICT and uniform procedural practices also contribute to this phenomenon. Reforms that are agency specific can indeed go a long way in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of that agency in delivering their services; however, such an approach will rarely benefit the entire border management sector. What happens is that one agency makes progress, while the other or others lag behind. This disparity may lead to a chaotic and ultimately counter-productive situation whose consequences are felt mainly by the end user such as business people importing and exporting cargo. The end user will often suffer such problems as unnecessary delays in clearance, too many bureaucratic processes, and even fraud. Therefore, as a result of the isolationist practices and lack of co-operation, the benefits of any reform do not flow to the end users.

Optimized Process for End-Users: My Approach

From the above analysis, it becomes clear that the lack of cooperation and or coordination between the different border agencies is the chief cause of lack of sector wide reforms. When there is no cooperation, different agencies will only care about undertaking reforms within their particular agencies and ignore the other agencies. This creates problems for the end user since only parts of the border management process are optimized while others are still inefficient and even ineffective. Therefore, having considered the factors above, it becomes evident that to carry out any reforms in any border agency such as the cargo clearance agency, several measures need to be put in place. The cargo clearance process is one that is not independent but rather relies on other agencies in order to be successful. Reforms must thus take an approach that will ensure that all the different agencies agree to a common implementation process so that they are all at par in the process of service delivery. This agreement cannot be achieved unless the different agencies are pointed towards the direction of cooperation and coordination. Only when agencies are coordinated will they agree to cooperate in carrying out sector wide reforms to create uniformity. Uniformity then guarantees an optimized process for the end user. The steps required to achieve this should be geared towards enhancing cooperation and coordination through eliminating any factors that hinder the same.

Before undertaking the reform process, it is of utmost importance to note that apart from the reasons stated above, lack of cooperation among border agencies has also been influenced by a number of unique factors such as resistance to change. Over time, many border agencies have grown accustomed to their system of doing things; their status quo to the point where change is viewed as a threat (Baish 2010). Also, many of the people mandated with the task of championing the change are usually not competent enough to perform it. Reforms also pose a threat to fraud and or corruption. A lot of money is gained through underground deals between customers and border agents who lack integrity. This has however been highlighted as a result of low salaries and wages paid to the agents which necessitates other means of survival. From the external point of view, reforms may also be hampered by society which has become accustomed to corruption such as endemic bribery which has in fact come to be accepted as a normal cost of doing business across the borders (Baish 2010). Also, although many countries have appointed officials to deal with such cases of fraud, some of these officials are often compromised as well or lack adequate support from the appointing authority such as the government, and also suffer lack of sufficient resources say in terms of personnel.

Steps to Enhance Cooperation and Coordination

Establishing coordination efforts among border agencies is a process that should be carried out on three levels. The first level would be the intra-agency level where coordination efforts would be directed towards agencies within the same geographical area or manning the same border. Such elements as management of information, resources and processes would be shared amongst the different agencies. There could be a central agency which directs flow of information and lines of command trickle down to the different agencies.

The second level would be the inter-agency national level so that different agencies operating at different border points within the same country are coordinated.

The final level would have to be the inter-agency international level. Here, the aspect of coordination is literally taken beyond borders so that different countries such as those bordering each other have their border agencies coordinated for better interrelations. In the latter two formats, there is often coordinated processing at the border stations. There is communication, joint operations and work arrangements and cross-awareness. Such aspects as information technology and risk assessment are integrated.

Perhaps the first and most important step in encouraging a coordinated approach to border management would be to enhance the mode of communication. This would mean promoting a direct communication channel between the different agencies so that time is not wasted on unnecessary procedures of communication such as following protocol. Once different agencies can communicate directly to each other, such elements as obtaining and or verifying such things as specific information on customers can be easily carried out between agencies. For instance, the security agency can quickly verify the validity of a passport from the immigrations agency without taking too much time. This measure can be implemented on all the different levels of intra, national and international coordination. In the end, the end user benefits from prompt dealings.

The government should also endeavour to play its role in enhancing coordination between border agencies. For instance, the government could come up with particular coordinated border management models which it would require the different border agencies to implement them fully. Once all the agencies are following a single model, the chances of high cooperation increase significantly. In the same light, when the need for reforms arise, it becomes easier to carry out general sector wide reforms since all agencies are using a similar approach to service delivery. In the same sense, introduction of new methods become easy such as the use of new technology. This would lead to greater harmonization and ultimately benefit the end users through greater efficiency and expediency.

There should also be a deliberate move towards modernizing all border management agencies through the introduction of new techniques and methods of service delivery and through the use of technology (McLinden, Fanta, Widdowson, & Doyle 2010). Introduction of technology can guarantee efficiency such as in records management and can also guarantee flexibility in communication. Communication through local area networks for instance can reduce the time taken by physical communication processes. Agencies that are linked together via technology can then be able to link together when carrying out reforms. This linkage would mean that some agencies are not left behind with the archaic methods of doing things.

Sector wide training programs such as on management can be organized to equip the border workers with knowledge on specific management issues such as cooperation itself, and elimination of unnecessary bureaucratic processes. Agency managers can also be taught about the importance of cooperation as a means of achieving a single objective. Border agencies should be made to realize that they are different entities of the same team and therefore unnecessary rivalry and competition should be eliminated (McLinden, Fanta, Widdowson, & Doyle 2010). In the end, when an agency sees to carry out reforms, there will be an automatic need to notify other agencies so that reforms are done in general and not per specific agency.

Another potent approach would be to encourage the single window technique to information collection and sharing. This technique connotes that at the border, one agency could be allocated the responsibility of collecting the necessary information say from customers and disseminating it to the rest of the agencies whenever it is required. This approach can save a lot of time for both the agencies and the end users. This would also mean that one agency cannot carry out reforms without involving the others since the system is interdependent.

A team of representatives from each border agency could be selected and appointed the duty of overseeing coordination efforts. The team would be mandated with such roles as identifying agencies and areas that need reform and deciding the best ways to approach the reform. The team would also ensure that there is trust and total cooperation from all agencies so that when reforms come, they are carried out sector wide.

The above are but simple steps that border management agencies could take to foster cooperation and coordination and in turn sector wide reforms for the benefit of the end user. There are even more advanced measures that can be taken to achieve coordinated border management. These are such as:

The application of institutional arrangements

There are a number of border management agencies depending on the country or region; these are such as: Customs, agriculture, immigration, quality control and the like. When there are many agencies, the chances of inefficiency are high due to the high level bureaucratic approach employed in service delivery. Coordinated border management aims at cutting down the number of agencies so that the end user does not have to pass through many uncalled-for channels. One way of achieving this is the use of institutional arrangements. The main technique for institutional arrangements is to reduce the number of agencies at the border by having them all under one roof. This can be done by organizing the agencies say under the ministry of finance or under an independent customs administration or any other method (Polner 2012). Such institutions as the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (CBPS) have congregated all agencies under one roof to function as one body; the same has been seen in the United States and Canada (Gary 2005).

Sample: Border Collaboration in Australia

The shift towards border collaboration and integration in Australia was championed by the formation of the “Strategic Border Management Plan” This strategy was a culmination of coordination and collaboration efforts by thirteen agencies spearheaded by the Customs and Border Protection Service (Carmody 2011). The plans intention as to set out principles that would govern border management in order to deliver an agile border management society that was much desired. The plan also included the desires and aspirations of the government in helping improve border management issues. Relevant government agencies came together to work under the tactical direction and oversight of a superior advisory group made up of representatives from these agencies.

Future advancement and capability needs could be addressed via close collaboration between agencies. Under a solid government framework, border communities could then coordinate and support an active approach to the process of policy setting. These elements can be achieved by pure focus on shared results and establishment of a mutual understanding of present and future working environments. By doing this, different agencies could thus work together in order to deliver and advance core capabilities at the boundary points both internally and externally.

It was acknowledged that no single border agency could deal with the highlighted challenges on its own. This kind of attitude is what encouraged the change in the Australian border management system. The outcome has been that the Customs and Border protection Service has continued to work in partnership with say a number of border and law enforcement agencies to tackle the risks presented or present at the border points. Such collaborations are often used as a means of addressing both policy and operational needs, as a way of allowing border agencies to harmonize strategic policy decisions and as a means of leveraging resources for centered interventions as derived from intelligence and risk assessments.

The scenario has now changed so much so that Australia is now able to have several task forces for joint law enforcement operating at any given time; collaborating together to defend the border at an operational scale. Such a task force often comprises of the joint efforts of such agencies as the Customs and Border Protection, State and territory police, Australian crime commission and the Australian Federal Police (Carmody 2011). This is a form of collaboration with the goal of combating crime at the border points.

Taking on a corporate form of management style, the joint efforts often go beyond the level of operations. For instance, there is a task force which consists of twelve border management agencies and is led by the Customs and Border Management Group. The leading group is thus mandated with executing the strategic border management plan as mentioned earlier and coordinating tactical response (Carmody 2011). This is s standard example of collaboration and coordination efforts between border agencies.

Other countries have chosen to reduce the number of agencies by dividing them up according to similarity of function. China and Russia for instance, have got independent customs administrations where agencies with similar functions such as the customs and tax agencies operate under one roof as the revenues department (Polner 2012). Other countries such as New Zealand have gone ahead to establish virtual border management administrations. In New Zealand, a board or group comprising of chief executives such as from the customs department, the labour ministry, internal affairs department and the like act as the coordinated border management team (Polner 2012).

When agencies and functions are departmentalized and or placed under one roof as a “one stop border post,” efficiency and effectiveness are largely enhanced due to ease in coordination and cooperation. In such scenarios, reforms are easy to carry out since the border management operates as one body. The end user is advantaged in many ways such as in terms of fast processing of documents and reduced waiting time say in terms of clearance.

Some countries in some regions have gone ahead to foster cooperation beyond borders to neighbouring countries. This is done through such ways as: locating the offices of both countries close to each other on the border, designation of a common control zone, formalities for import, export and even immigration are handled seamlessly between both countries, and inspections and searches are carried out by security agencies from both countries at the same time (World Customs Organization 2006). This approach is very fruitful in promoting efficiency and effectiveness. In the same light, both countries will strive to carry out reforms at the same time within both management agencies in a coordinated manner.

Collaboration: International Perspectives

On an international scale, the subject of collaboration between border agencies has been approached through the setting and monitoring of international standards and best practices. This function is overseen by three bodies namely: The World Trade Organization, The United Nations and The World Customs Organization. However, these are not the only bodies concerned with international collaboration. There are many other such bodies and agreements between nations and regions that regulate the process of border management. These are such as the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization (Baish 2010). The standards, practices and agreements of these institutions have are therefore recognized globally as being crucial for contemporary and professional cross-border commerce. Such bodies will often have rules and regulations that all members must agree to upon joining and adhere to throughout their membership. The World Trade Organization for instance, confer such rules as those presented in the GATT valuation agreement and the Rules of Origin that have been in the making for quite a while (Baish 2010). Important elements of factors in these regulations and standards are such as: The use of a Harmonized System of Nomenclature, the Istanbul Convention better known as the international Convention on Mutual Admission and the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance (Baish 2010). With these frameworks in place, the rules derived are such as:

Standardized best practices to be used by all members to enhance efficiency and simplify the processing of goods and transportation,

Using a harmonized system to classify the goods from which revenue is to be collected,

Statistics on trade are to be standard,

Mutual rules governing information exchange and cooperation between custom agencies of different members or countries and,

Common facilitation action on goods that transit a member country.

Another important instrument in the collaboration effort is such as the TIR convention or the TIR Carnets for instance as administered by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. This tool helps facilitate the transport of goods across numerous borders as is necessary for their shipment with very little intervention from customs agencies at the various border points. This is made possible under the convention using a mutually accepted shipment document that also works as a guarantee for the customs duties and taxes on the goods being transported (Baish 2010). It is therefore notable that collaboration efforts through such conventions and standardizations go a long way in harmonizing the treatment of goods, transportations and even passengers. The end result is a colossal advantage to the end user in terms of cost-effectiveness, predictability and transparency in all international transactions and activities. With such agreements in place, it is also possible to perform sector wide reforms even internationally since the mode or structure of operation is the same.

Factors to Consider:

According to Jain (2011), the process of initiating collaborative border management and even collaborative reforms across border agencies can only have a successful outcome if the following elements are in place:

Political Commitment: Here, as had been mentioned before, the government plays a major role in the management of borders and boundaries. Solid support from the political realm can increasingly boost collaboration efforts through say financial and general resource support. Also, the hand of the law would serve as a constant reminder to any parties unwilling to undertake collaboration efforts or reforms that it is mandatory as stipulated by the government.

Lead Agency: Synonymous with any other team arrangement, there has to be a leader who guides the rest of the team and its activities. A lead agency must thus be constituted or selected immediately to supervise the collaboration or reform process. Other agencies would thus be forced to follow suit and comply with the changes.

Lead with Customs Controls: There can be a number of agencies working at the border as dependent with the country or region. However, the customs controls agency stands out as the most vital amongst these agencies. It is the agency that controls matters to do with revenue and the most important logistical processes. It would therefore be prudent to institute the changes or to start the collaboration process in the customs controls agency so that the cornerstone is covered as the process continues to grow outwards to other agencies.

Develop a Model Memorandum of Understanding for Collaborative Border Management: Fostering collaborative efforts between border agencies means is the same as forming partnerships with clear goals and objectives in mind on the individual agency level and on the partnership level. A memorandum of understanding would thus act as the framework which would guide the activities of the different agencies such as their overall conduct in consideration of partner agencies. Such a memorandum would ensure that all activities done such as process reforms are done to the benefit of the partnership and not just the individual agency by itself.

Standardize and harmonize existing good practices: In a scenario where there are positive practices that are carried out by the different border agencies, it would be wise to promote such practices by turning them into norms for the partnership and encouraging other agencies that do not practice them to do so. This would not only encourage good practice formation but would also encourage the agencies from which the practices came from as they would feel appreciated.

Private Sector Participation in Collaborative Border Management efforts: The counterpart of any government is usually the private sector which contributes a significant share in matters concerning the economy of a country. The private sector therefore has a strong voice in terms of influence and must be involved in the collaborative effort or even when reforms are being carried out at the border. The private sector would in fact act as a good watchdog for any failures and or inconsistencies in the process.

Kick-off CBM at inland locations: Jain (2011) also notes that it is important to commence collaboration efforts in the inland locations before proceeding to the actual border points. Most business conducted at the border point will usually have emanated from the inland or is headed for the inland. It would thus be unwise to begin reforms from the main border areas while the inland is still fragmented.


It has been established that the process of undertaking reforms in border management has often taken agency specific approaches and has done little to improve the entire border sector for the benefit of the end user. Therefore to foster sector wide reforms, there must first be a collaborative effort between different border agencies whether internally, in between agencies and even internationally. Collaboration can be achieved by eliminating factors such as competition and rivalry between different agencies and the like. The next step would thus be to put in place factors that would encourage collaboration such as appointing a lead agency. Collaboration itself can take many forms such as joint partnerships or the umbrella style. In the end, it becomes easier to undertake sector wide reforms if the different agencies as working as one. The outcome is an effective and efficient border management process to the benefit of the end user. Consideration of the above approach and steps should provide the optimum process to end users in terms of convenience and efficiency.

Risk Matrix:

Cargo Clearance Process:

Some of the ways in which a cargo clearance process can be reformed or re-engineered would be:

To reduce the amount of paper work

To employ trained and competent clearance officers

To enhance the use of latest technology such as in tracking and inspection

To increase clearance terminals, and most importantly;

To enforce coordination between the different border agencies

In carrying out these reforms, there is risk presented in terms of feasibility of the process. Each step taken means that there is a risk of whether the reform will work or not. Therefore a risk matrix can help ascertain the level of risk. The level of risk can be presented as a probability and consequence on a scale of 1-10. The probability that the measure can be used and the possible negative consequence of the measure.


Table 1: Probability and consequence of risk in undertaking reforms in a border clearance agency on a scale of 1-10; 1 being lowest and 10 being highest



To reduce the amount of paper work



To employ trained and competent clearance officers



To enhance the use of latest technology such as in tracking and inspection



To increase clearance terminals, and most importantly;



To enforce coordination between the different border agencies