Businesses operating at the Tema Port have expressed reservations over what they say is the resumption of manual clearing system at the ports.
The concerns by the businesses come barely three months into the operations of the paperless clearing systems.
Citi News’ Tema correspondent, Elvis Washington reports that many of the clearing agents and freight forwarders are still seen carrying huge loads of papers to get their goods cleared at the ports.
For instance, some clearing agents who spoke to Citi Business News expressed their dissatisfaction with the development.
“Nothing has changed in my line of duty; I’m into free zone exports and imports. Currently, we’re still writing laden accounts. The only thing that has changed is compliance officers being moved from Tema to headquarters. We’re still writing landing accounts. Officers are still going to the field to check containers. The things we were doing previously we’re still doing them, nothing has changed. If they know something has changed they should let us know,” one clearing agent bemoaned.
Another also remarked, “It’s the same process we’re using, its only compliance that is not in Tema, and even that one there are issues. Because if the officer in Accra doesn’t understand something, how would I manage to explain things to him so that my work will go? The 4-hours for getting goods cleared is a façade. Sending compliance from Tema to Accra is the only difference, nothing else. We still join the preventive queue and we still go to GPHA for revenues. We’re still holding our papers for examination.”
Yet a third clearing agent maintained, “If I apply online and pay online, that is what you refer to as paperless. Currently, if I apply for the invoice from GPHA, I have to print a document and bring documents from the office. So I don’t think there is a paperless system. The only difference is the movement of compliance from the long room to head office.”
Paperless systems increase revenue
The paperless clearing system started on September 1, 2017.
It followed a directive by the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia that the port authorities automate all processes to reduce the human interaction.
The move was also to reduce the turnaround time for businesses and eliminate corruption.
Already, the paperless clearing system is reported to have accrued the economy some GHc213 million in revenue at the ports.
According to the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia revenue increased from GHc130 million in the first week of September 2016, to GHc213 million in the same period for 2017.
Freight forwarders’ perspective
A Technical Committee Member of the Freight Forwarders’ Association, Johnny Mantey also shared his thought on the development.
“What has changed is that you don’t have to carry documentation into the long room anymore; that has now been put on the compliance platform. You now don’t need to go to long room anymore. It is the port process that is about still the same. Though you go to the port and everything is on the system, you still have to sometimes print your documentation to go through the process. What pertains is no departure from the old system.”
On how to reverse the trend, Mr. Johnny Mantey pushed for a review of the total process to identify the lapses.
In his view, the outfit has already embarked on a process to get the necessary concerns addressed.
“The Ghana Institute of Freight forwarders is doing an assessment of the paperless port system currently and will come out with a report soon.”
Meanwhile efforts to reach the Customs Division of the GRA for a reaction to these concerns have so far been unsuccessful.
By: Elvis Washington/ Bobbie Osei/ citibusinessnews.com/Ghana