Government has debunked reports that the company operating the new customs clearing system known as UNI-PASS, has no track record and the required competence to execute its mandate.
The Minority in Parliament on April 3, 2020, opposed the roll-out of the system by Ghana Link and UNIPASS at the country’s ports.
They were of the view that there is no need to do away with GCNet and Westblue at the ports, when they have proven superior ability over the years.
But according to government, the impression that the UNI-PASS technology has not been deployed or tested anywhere in the world “is not accurate.”
A statement issued by government said, “The UNI-PASS technology has been deployed successfully in Tanzania since 2015 under the name Tancis, which World Customs Organization (WCO) has acclaimed as one of the best innovative trade facilitation systems. Cameroun, like Ghana, has deployed the same technology after successfully developing their system early this year,”.
It also states that “in Equador, in South America, the system has successfully been deployed since 2010 and it is still operating. The best place to see the efficacy of this UNI-PASS customs management technology is in South Korea itself where since 1998, the system has been deployed to successfully manage their complex and far bigger customs operations.”
Government further revealed that as part of efforts to ensure a successful implementation of the system, it embarked on a one-year comprehensive programme where staff of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and officials of other relevant stakeholders were trained on the system.
It also says there are records at the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Trade and Industry which clearly indicates that the Government of Ghana took a decision to deploy the UNI-PASS single window service to address the issues arising from the transition from the existing Customs Management System to a new end-to-end trade facilitation regime.
Cabinet in January, 2019, set up a Joint Inter-Ministerial Oversight Committee (JIMOC) under the chairmanship of the Senior Minister, Hon. Yaw Osafo-Maafo, to oversee the smooth implementation of the new custom management system.
The JIMOC has held several meetings with the various vendors on the essence and considerable impact of the new custom management system hence an amicable transition to the new system.
“Simulation exercises, scalability and stress tests of the new system have been conducted and have all proved favourable and the reports are available for review at the Ministry of Trade and Industry,” the statement added.
What is UNI-PASS
UNI-PASS is a new port clearing system that processes documents and payments through one window.
The new system is a departure from the previous system where ‘valuation and classification’ and ‘risk management and payment’ were handled by different entities.
The single window project is aimed at coordinating all activities at the ports on one platform to reduce time and cost in clearing and exporting goods.
The project, being spearheaded by Ghana Link Services Ltd, in collaboration with Customs UNI-PASS International Agency (CUPIA) of the Korean Customs Service, the designer of the system, replaces 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.
Despite initial plan to get the new system to roll out in January 2019, concerns over issues such as the trade facilitation fee (0.75%) which was higher than that of GCNet and West Blue altogether (0.68%), plus some court cases over allegations of pirated software, led to its suspension.
Reluctance to accept 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.
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