The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) thinks government is focused too much on maximising revenue at the ports, as against the effective trade facilitation its paperless ports project is supposed to ensure.
There is a need for government to find the right balance between maximising port revenue and effective trade facilitation to ensure maximum benefit from the paperless port regime, the institute noted.
President of CILT, Ebo Hammond, said at a continuous professional development programme in Tema that the paperless system of goods clearance was introduced purposely to ensure efficiency in port operations, but that focus has shifted barely six months into its implementation.
“Despite the stated objective of focusing on trade facilitation and enhancing the user experience throughout the clearance procedure, there is still too much focus on revenue mobilisation, as government continues to set highly ambitious collection targets for its officials—in this case Customs,” he said.
“Setting high revenue targets for Customs only puts pressure on officials to scrutinise consignments in more detail – a scenario that usually ends up in upward valuation of goods against stated amounts on the commercial invoices despite objection by shippers and/or their agents, leading to higher costs and longer and unnecessary delays,” Mr. Hammond added.
The CILT boss also raised concern over the high number of port agencies involved in the cargo examination process, which he said are contrary to the recommendations establishing the paperless regime that urges sharing of data among such institutions.
He noted: “It is neither effective nor suitable to have multiple agencies operating at the sea ports, airports and border-crossings with overlapping mandates which add unnecessary costs and delays to the clearing procedures and overall trade facilitation”.
CILT’s one-day continuous professional development programme was on the theme ‘Improvement in the cargo clearance processes at the ports of Ghana; the role of the paperless system’.
While raising these concerns, he said the paperless port regime has been largely successful on the whole – with increased revenue mobilisation, significant reduction in paper-based transactions and cargo clearance time, as well as about 80 percent reduction in the number of checkpoints along the country’s trade routes.