I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 134 together.
I am advised by Revenue that it carried out significant work to increase customs systems’ capacity to cater for the application of customs requirements to trade with the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) post the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) and to handle the consequent increased declarations. Revenue has two import systems – Automated Entry Processing (AEP) and a new system, the Automated Import System (AIS). The AEP system has not had any outages since 23 November 2020. However, since its launch on 23 November 2020, AIS has been unavailable on four occasions. Three of these outages related to scheduled maintenance and on two of these occasions the resulting restart unfortunately, took longer than planned, resulting in prolonged downtime. The fourth incident arose when a technical issue required the system to be restarted.
I am further advised by Revenue that since the UKs departure from the EU, and while monitoring activity levels within their systems, it identified degradation in performance of AIS during times of peak processing resulting in delayed responses to declarations and other messages lodged by trade. One of the contributing factors to the levels of transactions being presented for processing is the growth in the business levels of large filers with high volumes of small consignments, a business model which has increased significantly with the move to online shopping since the start of the pandemic.
Revenue has acknowledged that a delay in processing creates difficulties for trade and business and that the impact of delays for some businesses can appear as if the AIS system is not actually available when it is but is operating considerably below the performance level required and expected by trade and business. In instances when the delays are substantial, Revenue has taken actions to allow businesses to continue to move their goods.
I am advised that Revenue is working with its software provider to increase capacity at peak processing times and that certain measures taken to date have improved performance and resilience and that this work is continuing. At the same time Revenue is working with large filers, to develop tailored solutions that will facilitate their business model and ensure that other goods traffic is not adversely impacted by peak load processing delays.
I am aware that Revenue continues to monitor customs systems performance and where any delays are identified that have the potential to impact businesses, Revenue will take timely actions to ensure that businesses can continue to move goods. Revenue staff are working in the ports on a 24/7 basis to assist businesses and the Customs 24/7 Helpline is contactable on 01 738 3685.