The Ghana Union of Traders Association, GUTA, is appealing to government to speedily fix the challenges that have bedeviled the implementation of the Ghana Revenue Authority’s new Integrated Customs Management Systems, (ICUMS), also known as UNIPASS.
According to them, the existing difficulties with the system which are causing delays is pushing them to pay more for demurrage and rent, a cost they cannot bear.
In a statement issued by the Association, President of the group, Dr. Joseph Obeng, said, “prior to the introduction of the UNIPASS system, we were briefed on the efficiency that the new system would bring to bear on the clearing process at the ports. It is therefore a surprise to us that the system is fraught with challenges that cause delay, which eventually costs the importer, in terms of demurrage and rent charges.”
“We want to know, who bears the cost of such demurrages and rent, since the importer is not the cause of the problems in the implementation of the new system,” he added.
The full implementation of the UNIPASS system which experienced challenges during the plot phase, took off on Monday June 1, 2020, but the process has not been smooth so far.
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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.
It is replacing the systems operated by West Blue Consulting and the Ghana Community Service Network Limited (GCNet).
The system which will see all new transactions in respect to import and export processed only through the Ghana Revenue Authority’s new Integrated Customs Management Systems, took full effect on Monday, June 1, 2020.
But, the first and subsequent days of the system’s roll-out witnessed increased agitation from freight forwarders at the Tema and Takoradi Ports, as they complained of possible increase in demurrage, the fees paid to shipping lines when goods beat their clearing deadlines.
However, the Public Relations Manager of Ghana Link, operators of UNIPASS, Norvan Acquah-Hayford, has already stated a technical team is on standby to address the concerns of freight forwarders.
The Commissioner of Customs, Colonel Kwadwo Damoah, also said his outfit is working to address all the problems as soon as possible.
Prior to it’s take-off, Policy think-tank, IMANI Africa, petitioned government to temporarily suspend the operations of UNI-PASS and allow GCNET and West Blue to operate for the remainder of the year
According to them, this is 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.
They also predicted revenue losses if the concerns raised by stakeholders on the inefficiencies of the UNIPASS system are not addressed.