Save us – Freight Forwarders cry to Prez

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The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) has pleaded to President Nana Akufo-Addo’s government to tarry awhile in the nationwide implementation of UNIPASS, now Integrated Customs Management system (ICUMS) to get all the fundamentals right.

According to them, any attempt to introduce the failing system in busier ports like KIA and Tema would be disastrous, to say the least, and could lead to agitations.

They, therefore, called for the immediate suspension of the nationwide rollout of the ICUMS system now to prevent disruption of trade facilitation at the ports and save the nation from huge revenue loss.

GIFF made this known in a situation report on the deployment of UNIPASS/ICUMS at Takoradi and copied the Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyeremanteng.

President of GIFF, Edward Akrong who signed the report said the myriad of problems facing declarants are mostly due to the lack of proper mapping of the process flow, inadequate training of declarants, and unresolved systemic issues.

“These have all culminated in serious delays leading to untold hardship. Demurrage and rent payments have become the norm with no respite in sight”.

He said these are not normal times, and the scourge of COVID-19 presents a clear danger to clearing agents in view of the very predictable massing up of their compatriots in search of solutions.

Challenges at Takoradi Port

Touching on the issues clearing agents are facing with clearing goods at the Takoradi port through UNIPASS/ICUMS, Mr. Akrong said the system is simply not user friendly, explaining that declaration is back and forth and not a step by step process.

“Post entries are a nightmare. Interestingly this pushes the declarants to proceed physically to the operations center at the Grand Favour Hotel in Takoradi. For the records, fifteen (15) declarant companies visited in Takoradi have been to the operations center out of frustration with an unresolved situation”, he said.

The GIFF president said Tax Identification Numbers (TIN) could not be accessed and there are issues regarding permits, adding that there is no functional Support Service (Call centers) resulting in walk-ins to the Operations Centre.

He said the delays in uploading of manifest onto the system was and still is an issue, stating “It can be confirmed that not a single cargo had been cleared as of 24th April from a Grimaldi Vessel that arrived last weekend.”

Valuation issues

Mr. Akrong said one major issue identified is that of valuation, stating “This is a serious matter which we found ran across board. The original instruction was to upload evidence of valuation done prior to 1st April 2020 when creating the Bill of Entry (BOE). It is strange however that most of these values were ignored and revised mostly downwards even to the chagrin of the declarants who feel this was an anomaly and constituted a huge loss of revenue to the state but could do nothing about it!

“A situation can actually be confirmed where the declarant remarked in the system that value had been revised lower than the original CCVR but the appeal process itself is taking days so who would want to bother?”

“Some values already affected by the 50 percent reduction policy have still been revised downwards leading to ridiculously low duties. Vehicle valuation has always been standard by virtue of our unique system of valuation but several cases are replete with variations in values. This is a huge problem and will have a serious effect on revenue collection”, Mr. Akrong said.

He said the issue of duty difference popped up when assessed duty had already been paid.

“A few instances were observed ranging from GHS10, GHS70, and GHS174. The deduction is that although duty had been paid, declarations that had not been fully processed through to the following week became affected by the exchange rate of the new week. A case in point was when an aggrieved agent refused to accept this situation and had the difference in duty occasioned by this system flaw literally handed to him by one of the Korean technical expatriates. This is clearly unacceptable since duty had already been locked in place”, he said.

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