GH¢2bn lost through collusion of Customs officers and transit traders

The non-observance of rules governing transit trade and the probable complicity and collusion of Customs officers cost the economy GH¢2billion in revenue last year, Minister of Finance Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta has said.

“Apart from the huge loss of revenue, the practice of diverting imports meant for neighbouring countries back into the country makes our domestic traders uncompetitive, as they find it difficult to sell goods because diverted non-Customed goods are sold at lower prices.

“This could drive such traders out of business, further deepening the unemployment problem with its consequent loss of tax revenue and negative effects on economic growth,” he said.

Mr. Ofori-Atta said this in a speech read on his behalf by Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr. Kweku Kwarteng at an occasion that marked International Customs Day in Accra under the theme ‘SMART Borders for Seamless Trade, Travel and Transport’.

This year’s celebration was observed on January 28, 2019 world-wide, and focused on ensuring an expansion in movement of people, goods and transport within the ECOWAS sub-region to achieve the needed economic growth. The celebration also underlined the role of Customs in ensuring international trade as well as facilitating orderly cross-border movement of goods and services.

Mr. Kwarteng urged the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority to seriously police tracking devices mounted on vehicles which convey imported transit-goods.

“To ensure smart borders for seamless trade, travel and transport, I urge all importers to comply with the laws on international trade. I also call on Customs officers to be true revenue professional whose loyalty is only to Ghana.

“I charge management of the Customs Division to come out with appropriate mechanisms and directives to enhance the movement of goods and services across borders,” he said.

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The Commissioner-General for Ghana Revenue Authority, Mr. Emmanuel Kofi Nti, explained that the ‘SMART’ concept will provide guidelines in evaluating organisational performance, enhancing security, and adopting a data-enabled risk management system.

He added that the innovative approach will further boost business processes through the use of new technologies to achieve a solid global value chain.

Mr. Nti emphasised the need to explore the use of other IT solutions to improve and expedite border processing.

“The Customs Division, and for that matter GRA, will continue to cooperate with our neighbouring countries to ensure there is a seamless movement of people, goods and transport services within the ECOWAS sub-region to help in economic growth that will also result in the creation of employment opportunities and reduce poverty in the country.

“The SMART boarder concept, unlike our common understanding of it, will strengthen government’s aim to streamline trade, travel, and also counter migration threats across the country’s borders,” he stated.

Commissioner-Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Mr. Isaac Crentsil, delivering a speech on behalf of the Secretary General of the World Customs Organisation (WCO), Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, said Customs has a dual task to facilitate safe movement and encourage trade, travel and transport – adding that it is essential for Customs to take the lead in consolidating and further amplifying the ongoing efforts at easing the flow of goods and people across borders, which will turn globalisation into a positive force.

Mr. Crentsil explained that the concept of SMART borders highlights Customs’ role in supporting the United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Customs does this by creating a level playing field for all stakeholders through simplified, standardised and harmonised procedures.

“It ensures timely delivery of raw materials to industries, reduces unfair competition in local communities, and opens up opportunities for marginalised communities to access new markets,” he said.

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“It also creates transparent and predictable conditions for trade and facilitates legitimate business that will in turn contribute to economic growth and job opportunities,” he said.

He asked all WCO members to promote and share information on efforts toward achieving ‘SMART borders’, and highlight challenges faced with projects to inspire others.

Such activities, he said, would go a long way to bringing the global customs community together and forge partnership and cooperation essential to achieving success in the international trading landscape.

He added that the WCO, apart from security, is promoting a performance-based culture which rests on self-evaluation and objective measurement by exhorting Customs to ensure elements of the trade flows and organisational performance is measurable.

Mr. Harry Owusu, Board Chairman of the Ghana Revenue Authority, appealed to Customs officers to carry out their duties in a way that clears perceptions in the minds of the travelling public that officials are a hindrance to trade, travel and the movement of people across borders.

He said the Customs Division, last year, introduced a number of measures to enhance revenue mobilised from the entry points.

He said the target set for last year could not be achieved, adding: “This situation calls for stringent measures to ensure it is realised this year”.

Mr. Owusu advised Customs officers to adopt best practices to ensure professionalism. “It is imperative for the Customs Division to adopt and apply technology, methods and international standards to increase the volume of trade across the country’s borders and entry points.

“I urge all officers to be honest and transparent in their dealings and interactions with importers, to erase the perception of corruption that seems to be embedded in the minds of the public,” he said.

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