Can government ensure E-way Bill system to be glitch-free?

Mumbai: Last week, the Goods and Services Tax Council decided to make E-way bills or electronic invoices compulsory to move goods between states from February 1, replacing the transit pass systems followed by individual states.

According to the GST act, to transport goods worth over Rs 50,000 beyond 10 km, traders or transporters need to register ahead their goods and generate an E-way bill through the GST Network (GSTN) which will be used to track goods movement within and between states.

The GST revenue for October stood at Rs 83,346 crore, the lowest compared to the first three months since the implementation of GST from 1 July. It was significantly down from the September figure of Rs 95,131 crore.

At present, it is a well known fact that government officials came down heavily on Infosys for inept handling of the GSTN, amid leadership vacuum at the helm during a crucial stage of GST rollout resulted in a series of technical glitches.

Infosys in 2015 won a Rs 1,380 crore deal for developing and running GST’s back-end.

It was obvious that the back-end of the GST manned by the GSTN was not operating optimally. Many are also concerned about the soon-to-be-operational E-way bill system. If it faces any glitches, the movement of goods will come to a halt.

GSTN’s failure to handle the flood of return filing invoices raises serious doubts about the success of the E-way bill system since it is completely automated.

However, the government has roped in state-owned National Informatics Centre (NIC) to implement the technology backbone for inter-state E-way billing process under GST. The NIC has implemented the E-way bill system in Karnataka, which had pioneered it five years ago to track vehicles that transported goods.

Pratik Jain, leader (indirect tax), PwC India, said it was important to ensure that all states have common E-way bills and that suggestions from industry for simplification are taken into consideration.

“If the implementation is not done properly, it could lead to significant supply chain bottlenecks and somewhat dilute the objective of ‘one nation, one tax’,” said Jain.

“The biggest hurdle in implementing e-way bill is the (lack of) reliability of the IT network (GSTN). Businesses and transporters need to log in on the portal to generate the bill but the system is yet to stabilise as is evident from the fact that it still takes multiple attempts to log in,” Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the Confederation of All India Traders, told the Financial Express.

With the removal of intra-State barriers and physical check posts under GST and introduction of the E-Way Bill, the government is hopeful that it will improve the efficiency of the logistics sector, despite industry concerns over harassment.