The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) has kicked against moves to introduce a new single window system christened Uni-Pass at the country’s ports, as the existing system is very efficient and serves the needs of the port community and importers.
A 10-year deal was signed between the Ministry of Trade and Ghana Link Network Services Limited—with their overseas partners Customs Uni-Pass International Agency (CUPIA) of Korea Customs Services–in March 2018 to provide single window services at the country’s ports, though two existing companies—GCNet and Customs World (West Blue) — currently operate the nation’s existing single window system.
Though the existing system is efficient, boosted government’s revenue and is being perfected on a daily basis, Uni-Pass is scheduled to take over the single window operations in January, 2019, though the existing operators still have running contracts.
Mr. Kwabena Ofosu Appiah, President of the Institute told the B&FT that: “The existing system is very efficient. There is no perfect system anywhere, problems will come but all will be solved. Every day will have its own problems but what is necessary is the commitment we have from the people who operate the system and those who own the system to move along with us in the changing circumstances,
When they go for various international meeting, the existing single window is touted as the best in the Sub-region. So why the rush to replace it? Why change a system that we have taken time to perfect?”
The existing technical support companies’ contracts are yet to expire and raises issue of potential judgment debts if their contracts are unexpectedly abrogated. GCNet’s contract ends in 2023 while the West Blue contract expires in 2020. This means that there are still about 5 and 2more years, respectively for them to operate the single window system.
He added that the uncertainty created by the proposal for GCNet and WestBlue to unplug their systems by December 31, 2018 and for Uni-Pass to take over has led to uncertainty at the ports. This, Mr. Ofosu reckons, could potentially impact government’s expected revenue.
“Every business requires a certain level of certainty. This space has not known peace for some time now. Various directives and notices have been issued and some are withdrawn in a matter of days.
Why do they want to spring this on us, when you have not trained anybody? They are more than 3,000 people who use the existing system on a daily basis. How are they expected to all of a sudden change and start using a system them have not been trained to operate,” he said.
Need for governing council
Though there is a technical committee Known as the Ghana National Single Window Technical Committee, GIFF advocates for a properly structured governing council headed by the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, who has been very instrumental in the on-going reforms at the ports that has increased government revenue.
In the absence of a governing structure, this [the arbitrary implementation of various directives at the ports] will continue,” the GIFF President said.
Ports Revenue and GRA’s target
The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has set a revenue target of GH₵45billion for the New Year, 2019, a Finance Committee report has revealed.
According to the 2019 annual expenditure estimates for the GRA, the total tax revenue projected for the year 2019 is GH₵45billion as against the 2018 revised budget of GH₵38billion.
The 2019 budget statement indicated that domestic revenue is estimated at GH₵57bn, representing an annual growth of 25.5 percent over the projected outturn for 2018.
Of this amount non-oil tax revenue will constitute 74.2 percent, which amounts to GH¢42,874.8m. This estimate reflects the impact of expected improvements in tax compliance and reforms in revenue administration.
The review of the paperless port reforms that led to the reduction of the number of agencies undertaking joint inspections at the ports from 16 to three (3), is expected to lead to a 30 percent growth in government revenue from the ports by the close of this year.
The abolishing of the compliance stage of the clearance process— whose function has been taken over by the Customs Technical Services Bureau (CTSB)–also portends a much more perfected process that is able to rake in more revenue for central government in 2019.
Current system strong as Uni-Pass
According to users, the existing system is as strong and efficient as you can get anywhere. “The system we run here, when you take it to Korea, it will be fantastic.”
Policy think-tank, IMANI, has petitioned the Speaker of Parliament to institute a probe into the Uni-Pass deal. According IMANI, the Customs (Amendment) Act, 2016 (Act 923) amending the Principal Act clearly points the direction of where the National Single Window is established, effectively curing all elements of doubt that might have lingered on in the past as to ownership of the project.
“With this knowledge, why is the Trade Ministry signing agreements on this subject when a subsection of the quoted Act clearly states the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) as the one to manage the National Single Window System?” the think-tank said a letter addressed to the Speaker of Parliament.