An attempt by the Ghana Revenue Authority, GRA, to use the May Day Holiday to make up for the days it lost in the processing of documents for freight forwarders and importers due to implementation challenges with the new UNI-PASS system, did not yield the desired results.
Citi News’ Tema Correspondent, Elvis Washington, reported that only a handful of freight forwarders turned up at the port because the information did not get to majority of them.
At about 7:00pm on Thursday, April 30, 2020, Citi Business News cited a letter signed by the acting Deputy Commissioner of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, GRA, in charge of Preventive, Francis Tanlongo, announcing that freight forwarders and importers can work normally on Friday May 1, although it’s a statutory holiday,
This was to make up for the two days they had been lost due to challenges with the newly introduced UNI-PASS system.
But this information appears not to have gotten to all freight forwarders on time, as only a few of them showed up to do business at the Port on Friday, May 1, 2020.
The long queues that were seen at the Port on Thursday, April 30, 2020 were virtually non-existent. The streets were also almost empty with limited cargo.
Some freight forwarders who turned up to do business spoke to Citi Business News.
“I’m here to pay my duty. on Thursday we were not able to pay the duty because our declaration came out late. Today [Friday] is a holiday, but we had a communique that banks and custom systems are working. That is the reason why I’m here. Then on Monday, I can clear the goods for the importer,” one freight forwarder said.
An importer, Ibrahim Fuseini, who also visited the port with his clearing agent to clear his goods also stated that, “It’s affecting our business. I am not the only one. My agent has been tossing me so I decided to come and see what is going on. But, I can see that what he said is true. The system is slow,” he added.
Unlike on Thursday, freight forwarders who were waiting to pay duties ensured social distancing protocol amidst the threat posed by COVID-19.
But while they waited in turns to pay their duties, a security guard from the long-room branch of Ecobank, announced to them that the GCNET system, which had been restored, was also momentarily down due to network challenges. The challenge was however rectified later.
“For now, we haven’t because the GCNET is currently down so we are waiting for them to restore it so that we can continue,” he said.
Clearing of goods at the port has been disrupted following the introduction of the UNI-PASS system to replace the GCNET system. However, UNI-PASS took off to a false start, forcing the GRA to restore the GCNET system in the meantime.
The UNIPASS/ICUMS system
The UNIPASS/ICUMS platform is a new port clearing system that processes documents and payments through one window: a departure from the previous system where valuation and classification and risk management and payment were handled by different entities.
CUPIA Korea, which is assisting the Customs Division to implement the UNIPASS system, has described it as an enhanced single window system for trade facilitation.
The company which is expected to address key challenges at the ports also replaces the existing service providers, the Ghana Community Network Services (GCNet), which has operated for nearly 17 years, and West Blue Consulting.
Policy think-tank, IMANI Africa, last month, petitioned 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.
Also, the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders questioned the efficacy of system hours to the official outdooring of the system at the country’s ports.
The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders has also predicted revenue losses if the concerns raised by stakeholders on the inefficiencies of the UNIPASS system are not addressed.