The Concerned Freight Forwarders and Traders Association (COFT) continues to lament challenges with goods clearance at the ports despite the implementation of a new system.
Government on Tuesday started using a new single window system for the clearance goods popularly known as UNIPASS thus shutting down the old system operated by GCNet and Westblue.
The newly introduced UNIPASS which went live on Tuesday failed to take entries from freight forwarders who were ready to get their goods cleared out of the port.
Some of the Freight forwarders have since yesterday been complaining about challenges with the new system as they are unable to pass declarations.
Some of them registered their frustrations to Citi News.
“I was able to pass a declaration on Monday. I was expecting compliance but I had a query on my document that I was supposed to attach a GIPC exemption. But the system is shut down since yesterday. So, I cannot attach anything into the system for my compliance to be approved. I cannot make payments to the shipping line or the bank. The EMDA pass is also off,” one freight forwarder lamented.
“This thing is going to affect our business so much. Importers are going to really suffer because they will have to pay interest on the loans they have gone for. We are not working but then at the end of the day, all these indirect expenses will be added to the cost which will go to the final consumer. Government should quickly sit down with the authorities and open the system for us to work,” another freight forwarder lamented.
However, Chairman, Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Tema, Alex Asiamah, stated that though they are not happy with the situation, they are hopeful the authorities will get the system working as promised.
“Actually, the talks started yesterday and it is going to continue today. As of this morning, we have been in contact with the sector commander and he has assured us that possibly, by afternoon or latest by close of day today, work will resume. I am hopeful that things will work out. When there is a problem there is a solution,” he said.
Earlier, the Ghana Revenue Authority announced that it is in talks with GCNet to restore its systems following the challenges witnessed at the ports with the newly Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS), also known as UNIPASS.
In a statement, the GRA said talks were far advanced to get GCNet back to work today, Wednesday, April 29, 2020, while the challenges with UNIPASS are resolved.
“It has come to the notice of the Management of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) that Customs House Agents/declarants are facing some challenges processing their Customs documents on the Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS). Management of GRA as part of efforts resolve these challenges is having consultations with the management of GCNet for the restoration of the GCNet GCMS services.”
The UNIPASS/ICUMS system
The UNIPASS/ICUMS platform is a new port clearing system that processes documents and payments through one window: a departure from the previous system where valuation and classification and risk management and payment were handled by different entities.
CUPIA Korea, which is assisting the Customs Division to implement the UNIPASS system, has described it as an enhanced single window system for trade facilitation.
The company which is expected to address key challenges at the ports also replaces the existing service providers, the Ghana Community Network Services (GCNet), which has operated for nearly 17 years, and West Blue Consulting.
Following the introduction of the system, Policy think-tank, IMANI Africa, petitioned government to temporarily suspend the operations of UNI-PASS and allow GCNET and West Blue to operate for the remainder of the year to rake in revenue in excess of GHS10 billion for the country considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on trade activities.
Also, the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders questioned the efficacy of system hours to the officially outdooring of the system at the country’s ports.
Critics of the UNIPASS have also cited the presumed distortions that the new system will bring to the shipping community; a claim rejected by the managers of the platform.