Challenges with UNIPASS linger at Takoradi Port

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…Minority pushes for temporary suspension

Freight Forwarders in the Western Region capital of Takoradi have expressed their displeasure about lingering challenges with the new Integrated Customs UNIPASS Management Systems (ICUMS), otherwise known as UNIPASS, at the Takoradi Port.

The Freighters on Thursday May 7 picketed at the Customs Office of the Ghana Revenue in Takoradi to call for immediate suspension of the UNIPASS system until the operators are able to fix the problems with the supposedly new system.

Mr. Paul Ato Bentil, an Executive Member of the Institute, said the new UNIPASS system brought in to replace the existing vendors GCNet/WestBlue “has not given us any real value as was touted.

“It has really affected us, in the sense that even the shipping lines and other stakeholders are having a lot of challenges. [Initially] we felt it was just an ordinary glitch, but now we have noticed it is taking root and that is really worrying us.

“For instance, if you send your declaration or CCVR, it was previously taking us some short time [to process] on the GCNet/WestBlue system; but now it can even take more than three weeks and it will still be in the UNIPASS system.”

Derick Prince Abodjan, Chairman of the Takoradi district of GIFF, urged government to temporarily suspend the new UNIPASS and restore the GCNet/WestBlue system at Takoradi Port, just as has been done at the Tema Port, while the challenges with UNIPASS are fixed. “It is appropriate to go back to it for say three months [just as has been done in Tema] until all issues are solved,” he said.

He added: “All we are saying is that if I have a machine I’m working with and it takes me ten minutes to do a job and you bring me a new one and a better machine in this 21st century but this machine is going to take me three hours to do the same job, then what are we talking about? Are you taking me back or into the future?

“Government has to take a look at this. We the importers and clearing agents in Takoradi are not happy. It is taking us too long to clear; it is taking us more time and more cost. Now if you happen to clear a vehicle on this UNIPASS, you get to the licencing office and it is not even in their system.

“Our call is for government to suspend this UNIPASS system, and then they should make it better and come back. Let’s use the GCNet because government needs revenue, and so let’s give government the revenue.”

Minority pushes for temporary suspension

The Minority in Parliament and policy think-tank Imani Africa have over the past weeks being calling for a suspension of the new ICUMS/UNIPASS system to safeguard government revenue.

Given impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, government has had to significantly reduce its revenue projections for the year. The country’s ports, however, are among the largest revenue-generating areas that ought not to be ‘toyed’ with.

Deputy Ranking Member on the Trade, Industry and Tourism Committee in Parliament, Yusif Sulemana, warned over potential judgement debt by doing away with current vendors. “The GCNet concept is one of the only projects that each government in the 4th Republic has built upon. The Akufo-Addo government will be the only one to depart from this. And strangely, they are doing it so recklessly that the potential of saddling the country with judgement debt could not be higher.

“Our belief is that the puppet-masters pulling the strings for this transaction could only be motivated by what they stand to gain privately. Those people must be reminded that dawn is on the horizon and they will answer questions.”

On his part, a former Deputy Minister for Trade, Murtala Mohammed, notes that: ““GCNet and West Blue are doing a tremendous job, so why would you even think of bringing in a private entity? It means all the successes we have chalked up over the years will be thrown away. Let’s go and check if UNIPASS has the credibility to do what government is asking them to do.”

GCNet/WestBlue to the rescue in Tema

GCNet/WestBlue earlier this month shut their systems to allow UNIPASS deploy its system fully per directives received from the Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo.

However, for over two days, freighters were unable to clear their goods. An Imani Africa analysis show that Ghana earns about GH¢33million per day at its ports. Thus about GH¢66million was lost due to the challenges with the ICUMS/UNIPASS.

The situation necessitated an emergency meeting between government and all stakeholders. At the end of the meeting, GCNet/WestBlue were made to turn their systems back on to salvage the situation.

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