Policy think-tank, IMANI Africa, has asked government to temporarily suspend the operations of UNI-PASS and allow GCNET and West Blue to operate for the remainder of the year to rake in revenue in excess of GHS10 billion for the country considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on trade activities.
According to the Policy think-tank, the apparent suspension of the contracts of West Blue and GCNET have brought to bear some crucial trade facilitation issues.
A statement issued by the Policy think-tank and signed by the Founding President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Franklin Cudjoe, also stated mentioned incidents of false starts with the UNI-PASS system, hence the need to suspend the operations.
Citing a report published by the Business and Financial Times newspaper titled “Takoradi port goes back to manual process as angry importers call for unipass-icums halt” and another from Ghanaian Times on April 20, 2020 published the header “Freight forwarders decry delays in clearing goods at Takoradi Port,” among others, the Policy think-tank stated that these reports, “do not only deal a blow to the enhanced paperless system that propelled an increase in port revenues from GHS 8 billion in 2016 to a little over GHS13 billion in 2017 and 2018, working with WEST BLUE and GCNET port technologies, it is likely to detract from the assured average daily revenues of almost GHS 33 million and ultimately jeopardize the flow of trade.”
The statement also notes that, it is utterly possible that these happenings of false starts with the UNI-PASS system are expected with installing new technology systems.
“However, it is difficult to ascertain this claim, as there has been no independent verification of the robustness of the system. Second and crucially, this is not the time to be playing games with the most significant revenue earner for the country,” it added.
IMANI further suggested that an independent review be conducted on the UNI-PASS system and the Ministry of Trade and Finance be summoned to share revenue projections from its implemention.
“Right now is not the time for playing games. Revenues are a critical part of this country’s path to recovery post covid-19. The economic cost is so significant, no revenues coming in at all, we won’t be able to function economically,” it said.
“I do not know what data Custom and Tax Commissioners presented to your Trade and Finance Ministers and the Senior Minister’s Task Force on ports to warrant your apparent blessing of the UNI-PASS system. However, I am convinced that when the above steps are sanctioned, these officers who appear to be taking directives from superiors with non-existent data will have a rethink. They could be vindicated on the superiority of UNI-PASS too, he added.
The Uni-Pass is a new port clearing system that processes documents and payments through one window. This will be a departure from the previous system where ‘valuation and classification’ and ‘risk management and payment’ were handled by different entities.
The system, being spearheaded by Ghana Link Services Ltd, in partnership with Customs Uni-Pass International Agency (CUPIA) of the Korean Customs Service, the designer of the system, will replace the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAARS) and the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) jointly operated by the Customs Division, the Ghana Community Network Services (GCNet) Ltd and West Blue Consulting.
CUPIA Korea, which is assisting the Customs Division to implement the Uni-Pass system, has described it as an enhanced single window system for trade facilitation.
Rejection of UNI-PASS
The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders had earlier contended that the early signs of the implementation were not reassuring.
For example, the roll-out of the UNIPASS single window system at the country’s ports could not come off as expected at Elubo in the Western Region because freight forwarders were abruptly asked to present their names for training on the new system.
But, President of the Chamber of Freight Forwarders and Traders, Dennis Amfo Sefa expects freight forwarders to warm up to the idea of the UNIPASS single window system at the country’s ports.
Meanwhile, government has dispelled fears over the efficiency of the UNI-PASS system.