The Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) has activated a paperless exemption module to allow all applications and approvals for trade exemptions from the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to be done on its eMDA portal on the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS)/GCNet system.
The electronic portal connects over thirty-five MDAs; including Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Women, Children and Social Protection, and Ministry of Works and Housing.
Others are Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Ministry of Communication and Ministry of Transport; the rest being Ministry of Roads and Highway, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation, and Department of Social Welfare.
Players in the trading community including applicants, traders, importers, freight forwarders and the Ministries, Agencies and Departments(MDAs) are required to, from February 26, 2018, process all new applications to MoF through the eMDA portal of the GCMS/GCNet system.
Prior to commencing the new application process, GCNet organised a two-week training and sensitisation programme to deepen knowledge and understanding in such areas as processing e-exemptions, approval of permits and licences by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on the e-MDA Portal.
The training brought together key actors in the clearance chain, including declarants and selected officials of the various MDAs to enhance their knowledge base on the new feature upgrades on the eMDA portal as part of measures to make the exemption process fully paperless.
Acting TradeNet Manager of GCNet, Mr. Eben Engmann, explained that the paperless exemption process allows an applicant or agent to send an electronic exemption application to the MDAs via the eMDA portal for processing and approval.
He noted that once the designated agency receives the application electronically on the portal and is approved, entry is forwarded to the Ghana Revenue Authority (Domestic Tax and Customs Divisions) – whereupon a Bill of Entry (BoE) is generated once approval is granted by the GRA.
“Whenever an application is rejected, it is sent back to the applicant for revision and re-submission via the portal; and once revisions done are re-submitted and approved, the clearance process continues,” he said.
According to him, the paperless mode of exemption or approval application will effectively address the challenges of delays and increasing cost of clearance among others associated with the manual regime – wherein an applicant writes an exemption application letter to the MDAs for processing and approval. The MDA, upon receipt of application, forwards it to the sector-Minister for approval.
Participants noted that in the manual regime approval for the application was cumbersome, and hailed the development as very timely in the second phase of implementing the paperless ports regime. They observed that the process will go a long way to improve ease of doing business in the country.
Sarah Kariyama, a Freight Forwarder with Reign Lamb Company, observed that the paperless exemption will eliminate physical movements of agents between offices of the regulatory agencies and their supervising Ministries to have exemption applications processed, thereby significantly reducing cost and turnaround time in the clearance of goods at the ports.
The new procedure will require the MDAs on whose behalf the exemptions are being applied for to grant the 1st Level approval, while the Ghana Revenue Authority (DTRD and Customs), grant the 2nd and 3rd Level approvals respectively.
Emelia Adjei, also a Freight Forwarder with Yakumca Company Limited, said the paperless initiative will make the process faster and easier, and allow real-time transactions to be executed.
The training, which was scheduled in batches from February 15, 2018 to February 23, 2018, covered declarants, agents and officials from the MDAs stationed at the three main entry points: namely Tema, Takoradi and KIA.
It will be recalled that in November 2017 a Deputy-Minister of Finance in charge of Revenue Mobilisation, Hon. Kwaku Kwarteng, launched the upgraded electronic platform (eMDA portal). The platform was to allow MDAs and their clients process applications for duty and tax exemptions electronically in the end-to-end port clearance chain without the use of paper.