GRA beefs up Customs staff at ports to clear backlogs

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Commissioner General, Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has directed its Customs Division at the port to resume normal operations, as their shift system which was put in place due to measures to check the spread of COVID-19 has been cancelled.

The move is part of urgent steps being taken by the GRA to ensure that the backlog of uncleared goods at the port due to challenges faced with the newly introduced Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS) managed by UNIPASS is handled quickly.

The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), has over the past week lamented the inability of its members to carry out their operation at the port due to system challenges, leading to the lock up of goods. They fear that, as a result of no fault of theirs, they may have to pay demurrage and rent charges.

The GIFF at a press conference last week, raised issues ranging from system inaccessibility, importer Tax Identification Number (TIN), delivery time benchmark, manual processing, security, system calculator, call center, information management, training and frontier challenges.

But the Project Manager of ICUMS, Assistant Commissioner of Custom Emmanuel Ohene described their concerns as over rated as the system was functioning even though not at its full capacity.

This necessitated a meeting last week at the Tema Port with the Commissioner General Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, UNIPASS Team Customs and others where a communique from the meeting cited by the B&FT stated that due to the observation of COVID -19 protocols, Custom officials were reporting to work in batches.

The Commissioner General has therefore recalled all staffs to report to work with immediate effect and have been drafted into a morning and evening schedule; the morning shift will work till 5pm and the evening shift will then take over and close the following morning. This is expected to continue until all the backlogs have been cleared.

Also, the valuation and the classification of goods from the frontiers or the boarders was considered at the meeting with a decision that, henceforth, the classifications will be performed by the officers at the frontiers.

“The meeting resolved that, with immediate effect, a temporary approval has been given to customs to continue with their classifications, whiles pharmaceutical companies will continue processing their documentation and proceed with payments to enable them to obtain the various license and certificates instead of waiting for an assessment to be done on their documents. This is expected to will reduce the delay at the technical service bureau and payment of illegal fees,” the Commissioner General added.

A stakeholders meeting has been scheduled to ensure the Food and Drugs Authority, Ghana Standards Authority, Customs and others put across a pragmatic way to circumvent the ICUMS challenges but still keep revenues intact. The GRA is confident that, with ICUMS by the end of the year, clearing cargo from date of its discharge to its release at the sea ports would take 48 hours, while a lesser time would be required for air and land frontier operations.

ICUMS, is a fully integrated port community, single and e-clearance system which currently has registered all Shipping Line/Agents, Terminal Operators, Container Freight Stations, Licensed Customs House Agents, Freight Forwarders, Bonded Warehouses/Free Zones Operators and other port community players.

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