Policy think tank, IMANI Africa has petitioned President Nana Akufo-Addo on the UNI-PASS deal.
The policy think tank urged government to temporarily suspend operations of UNI-PASS and allow GCNET and West Blue to operate for the remainder of the year in order to assure the nation of revenues, most likely GHS10 billion given depressed trade activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to IMANI Africa, the apparent termination of the contracts of West Blue and GCNET have brought to bear some crucial trade facilitation issues.
The petition signed by the Founding President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IMANI Africa, Franklin Cudjoe also stated some worrying incidents of false starts with the UNI-PASS system, thus the need to suspend the operations with UNI-PASS.
Citing a report published a few days ago by the Business and Financial Times newspaper titled “Takoradi port goes back to manual process as angry importers call for unipass-icums halt” and another from the state-owned daily, The Ghanaian Times, on April 20, 2020, published the header “Freight forwarders decry delays in clearing goods at Takoradi Port,” among others, the Policy think tank stated that these reports, “do not only deal a blow to the enhanced paperless system that propelled an increase in port revenues from GHS8 billion in 2016 to a little over GHS13 billion 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 GHS 33m and ultimately jeopardise the flow of trade.”
The statement also noted that it is utterly possible that these happenings of false starts with the UNI-PASS system are expected with installing new technology systems.
“However, it is difficult to ascertain this claim, as there has been no independent verification of the robustness of the system. Second and crucially, this is not the time to be playing games with the most significant revenue earner for the country,” it added.
IMANI further suggested that an independent review be conducted of the UNI-PASS system and the Ministry of Trade and Finance be summoned to share revenue projections from implementing UNI-PASS with Ghanaians.
“Right now, it’s not the time for playing games. Revenues are a critical part of this country’s path to recovery post-COVID-19. The economic cost is so significant, no revenues coming in at all, we won’t be able to function economically,” it said.
“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 UNI-PASS 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 UNI-PASS too, he added.
The Uni-Pass is a new port clearing system that processes documents and payments through one window. This will be a departure from the previous system where ‘valuation and classification’ and ‘risk management and payment’ were handled by different entities.
The system, being spearheaded by Ghana Link Services Ltd, in partnership with Customs Uni-Pass International Agency (CUPIA) of the Korean Customs Service, the designer of the system, will replace the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAARS) and the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) jointly operated by the Customs Division, the Ghana Community Network Services (GCNet) Ltd and West Blue Consulting.
CUPIA Korea, which is assisting the Customs Division to implement the Uni-Pass system, has described it as an enhanced single window system for trade facilitation.
However, in recent times there have been calls by various groups opposing the roll-out of the system.
Reluctance to accept UNI-PASS
The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) has earlier expressed misgivings that the early signs of the move were not reassuring.
According to them, the roll-out of the UNIPASS single window system at the country’s ports could not come off as expected at Elubo in the Western Region because freight forwarders were abruptly asked to present their names for training on the new system.
They also said no successful pilot had been undertaken to independently test the system’s robustness to accept the about 20,000 declarations that might be going through it daily.
But, President of the Chamber of Freight Forwarders and Traders, Dennis Amfo Sefa expects freight forwarders to warm up to the idea of the UNIPASS single window system at the country’s ports.
Meanwhile, government has dispelled fears over the efficiency of the UNI-PASS system.