Carlos Ahenkorah calls for port users to keep faith in UNIPASS system


Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah, has expressed the view that the new Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS) – also called UNIPASS – that has been rolled out by the Ghana Revenue Authority will display an improved form of the paperless system.

“This is proper paperless. You will not hold a single paper. Even with the banks, you will have to pay online,” he stated.

Carlos Ahenkorah, who doubles as the Member of Parliament for Tema West, made this submission while discussing the National and Continental Trade Agenda Before and After the COVID-19 pandemic on the Eye on Port platform live on national television.

He emphasised that although the system, like any other Customs management system, in its beginning stages will have teething issues, users can still have confidence in the new system’s reliability as it will improve trade facilitation.

“ICUMS is going to be the fastest that you will ever see in Africa, because now as we speak, compliance is virtual, so I get my UCR, develop my IDF and put it in. Formerly, you had to develop your IDF with GCNet and do the UCR with West Blue,” he added.

The Deputy Minister in Charge of Trade however encouraged port users to tarry awhile in their judgement on efficiency of the system, as early inefficiencies experienced are typical of such systems – citing similar experiences when GCNet took over at the time he was Chairman of the Tema Branch of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders.

“I have been in the port too long to witness some of these changes…In the 2000s when GCNet came into being, myself and other senior members of GIFF went on the field to ensure GCNet would succeed, because it was the same issue. When they were coming, all of us forwarders were not happy because nobody likes change. But we had to make sure we got ourselves committed and got others towing in.”

Mr. Ahenkorah stated that government decided to hand over management of the Customs system to Ghana Link because West Blue and GCNet did not demonstrate the desired cooperation, as well as failing to help government maximise revenue generation at the expected levels.

“We came in and realised that the two systems were not talking or were operating in a way that there were too many loopholes for things to happen, and government was not maximising revenue collection as we wanted.”

Again, he said it was government’s belief that ICUMS will provide improved security for data on revenues collected.

“We needed a step up in security with regard to revenues collected. Government doesn’t sit in the ports to collect its money. Customs Officers don’t take money. It is the banks that receive the money…government needed a bit more security to ensure that those monies collected are what we are projecting,” he explained.

He also revealed that UNIPASS was slated for use to help Customs Valuation in 2015, only for West Blue to suddenly win over the contract.

“It was UNIPASS that came into the country to train Customs officers and set up their systems for six months; and were ready to roll out and start business only for government then to go to Nigeria and bring West Blue in and kick UNIPASS out,” he disclosed.

Carlos Ahenkorah informed that ICUMS is replacing the GCMS component serving as a Customs Security Server controlling the processing of Customs declarations and revenue mobilisation – whereas UNIPASS is the trade net platform.

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