December 01, 2022: Randy Sue (pictured) always had a thirst for adventure. That’s why he joined the US military at the age of 18, eager to see the world. But he always knew, deep down that he would return home to the Federated States of Micronesia. Randy returned home in 2012, and was working at the Pohnpei State Revenue Office when a position as an audit specialist with the National Customs and Tax Administration became available in 2019. The father of three quickly established himself within the National Government and earlier this year become the head of the Customs and Tax Administration.
The last eight months has been quite an adventure, in fact a baptism of fire for him. He took over as head of the Customs and Tax division and “inherited” a bigger role in the region as the chairperson of the Oceania Customs Organisation.
What is the best part of your job?
I love everything about this job- as head of Customs and chairperson of the Oceania Customs Organisation. It has been a great opportunity for me, a valuable learning experience. I enjoy the networks that I have been able to build in the region. As Customs organisations, we are in various stages of development, so these networks have become very critical in the sharing of knowledge and best practices. Even though I am new to Customs, I believe my background in security has sort of prepared me for this role. Customs officers are frontliners in border security and understanding the importance of this role comes naturally to me.
What is your vision for your organisation?
To be honest, I did not join the department with some sort of vision. When I applied for the job, I was just applying to get a job as a senior auditor. But now I’m sitting in this position, overseeing people and the nation’s tax and Customs administration, it is my vision to modernise our processes and systems.
We need to simplify how the taxpayers meet their tax obligations, to make it easier for our staff to use modern technologies, instead of doing everything manually.
Right now, we’re doing manual reports from the ground up. It would be great just go into the system and get a report.
But one of our greatest challenges is our geographical isolation as a group of islands – there’s over 600 islands in the FSM. We cannot even reach out to all the islands in the FSM. Some of our islands do not even have internet connections or are limited to very slow internet. That will be a challenge in the modernization and digitalization of our systems.
You have only been in the job for the last six months, but could you pick out some of the highlights of the administration’s performance during and post COVID-19?
I think one of the greatest achievements is that our borders are open again. I think that is a great thing. But for the last six months, our administration is on track in collecting targeted revenue for the government – every year our collection is increasing. I guess one of the highlights for us is the progress towards digitalization of our systems, it will help in compliance and translate to increases in revenue collection. However, we have had to be more flexible as well as people are under increased financial pressures due to the impacts of the pandemic.
We have also been lucky as we have received increased support from the US throughout the pandemic. Unlike other countries in the region, our collections are not dependent on tourism, so we weren’t adversely affected by the abrupt closure of our borders. The government also gave some incentives to the tourism industry to carry them through the pandemic period, but every other sector in our economy was pretty much stable the whole time.
What would have been your ideal job ?
I never really dreamt about becoming a tax or Customs officer – that never crossed my mind. I have never looked at a Customs officer and say, “that’s what I want to become one of these days”. Most of the positions I’m open to when I’m looking for a job. I never plan on it, I just look at opportunities and whatever opportunity opens, I grab it if it helps in my development. But if I wasn’t working here, and I didn’t have to worry about money, I would be a farmer – raising pigs has always been a hobby of mine. But you know the reality of things is that I have family to raise also, so I must work to earn a living. Raising pigs is just a side-interest for now.
For more information, queries, or interview requests, please email MediaOCO@ocosec.org
About OCO: OCO is a grouping of 23 customs administrations in the Pacific region. It facilitates regional cooperation, information sharing and capacity building of its members with the overall target of supporting economic growth and improved border security in the Pacific.