The Minority Caucus on the Trade and Industry Committee of Parliament, says the country risks losing revenue from the ports if government fails to resolve the challenges with the implementation of the UNIPASS system.
It has been nearly a week since the new system replaced the single window work carried out by West Blue Consulting and GCNet.
But freight forwarders have complained about undue delays which they say is causing them to pay huge demurrages to shipping lines.
After a tour of the Tema port, the Ranking Member of the Trade and Industry Committee of Parliament, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, said government needs to reconsider the decision.
”We cautioned this government to tread cautiously in this transition. You are in a rush. You violated every tender process and did the sole sourcing. You wanted to get out GCNet and West Blue, when companies were valid and still had a contract. Companies that quite frankly had given government so much revenue but then, you brought a company that was not tested according to all the records that we have. We cautioned that this is really going to pose two critical dangers. One, we will risk losing revenue as a country, especially during this COVID-19 period when we need so much money. Secondly, we also cautioned this government that it is going to bring too much hardship to traders,” he said.
In it quest to pursue a digitization agenda, government contracted the UNI-PASS International Agency (CUPIA) of Korea Customs Services and its local partner, Ghana Link Network Services Limited to implement a National Single Window in collaboration with Customs for trade facilitation.
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 has replaced 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, ICUMS, took full effect on Monday, June 1, 2020 after a challenging pilot.
But the first and subsequent days of the system’s full roll-out has witnessed increased agitation from freight forwarders at the Tema and Takoradi Ports, as they complained about delays that have led to 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.
Opposition to UNIPASS
Prior to its take-off, the Minority in Parliament kicked against the roll-out of new system.
According to them, there is no need to do away with GCNet and Westblue at the ports, when they have demonstrated superior ability over the years.
Policy think-tank, IMANI Africa, earlier this year also 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 effectiveness of system hours to the official outdooring of the system at the country’s ports.