Act on UNIPASS suspension to secure GH¢10bn port revenue—IMANI Africa

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Policy think-tank, Imani Africa, has petitioned President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo over a potential GH¢33m average daily revenue loss due to current challenges with the new integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS), otherwise known as UNIPASS, deployed at the country’s sea ports.

Imani, in the petition signed by its Founding President and CEO, Franklin Cudjoe, said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on government’s revenue this year and admittance by the Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta that it will take about three years for the economy to recover show that “This is not the time to be playing games with the most significant revenue earner for the country.

“Temporarily suspend operations of UNIPASS and allow GCNET and West Blue to operate for the remainder of the year in order to assure the nation of revenues – most likely GH¢10bn given depressed trade activity due to COVID-19,” Imani said in the April 21 petition.

The petition noted that the current challenges with the ICUMS, especially at the Takoradi Port, “are likely to derail gains made in the enhanced paperless system that propelled an increase in port revenues from GH¢8bn in 2016 to a little over GH¢13bn in 2017 and 2018, working with West Blue and GCNet port technologies. It is likely to detract from the assured average daily revenues of almost GH¢33m and ultimately jeopardise the flow of trade”.

It added that the US$500m debt standstill granted by the World Bank constitutes less than a third of guaranteed port revenues for this year under the GCNET-West Blue ports systems scenario pre-COVID-19 – the reason a disruption to port revenue is inimical to government’s revenue drive.

False-starts?

Though admitting that every new system has its challenges, Imani maintains: “It is difficult to ascertain this claim, as there has been no independent verification of the system’s robustness. COVID-19 has erased almost 6% of the country’s expected end-year growth of 7.5%; leaving in its trail huge gaps in our finances.

“I do not know what data Custom and Tax Commissioners presented to your Trade and Finance Ministers and the Senior Minister’s Task Force on ports to warrant your apparent blessing of the UNIPASS system. However, I am convinced that when the above steps are sanctioned, these officers who appear to be taking directives from superiors with non-existent data will have a rethink. They could be vindicated on the superiority of UNIPASS, too,” the petition added.

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