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Customs, GPHA in power struggle over port operations

THE Commissioner of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Colonel (retired) Kwadwo Damoah, has disclosed that there is an apparent power struggle between his division and the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) that is affecting smooth ports operations.

He has, therefore, advocated a review of regulations governing their mandates to clearly define their roles, operations, powers and limits to prevent conflict situations between the two agencies and create an efficient goods clearing process at the ports.

“Most of  the problems  and the cumbersome clearing  processes within our ports  are the direct  result of the various  acts of the  respective port service providers  or authorities  which are fraught  with non-cooperation among the  authorities , apparent  power struggles, lack of  commitment  to service and abuse of public office,” he said.

Colonel (rtd) Damoah made these known in a speech read on his behalf by Assistant Commissioner of Customs, Bob Senyalah, at a multi-stakeholder business integrity forum organised by the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), in Accra, yesterday.

The forum on the theme: ‘Promoting an effective and efficient business environment within our ports: A case of cumbersome clearing process’, was to afford stakeholders in the port industry a platform to deliberate about challenges therein and proffer solutions.

Citing an instance of the power struggle, Colonel (rtd) Damoah said the Customs’ ability to examine goods or move them to state warehouse was determined by the readiness of GPHA staff, a situation which often created misunderstanding between the two agencies.

He said the Port Health Services was part of the problem, as they claim they do not take orders from customs, and therefore decide to work at their own time despite the urgency.

He said various stakeholders had taken advantage of the lapses in the process and opportunities for corruption to abuse the clearing processes and duty payments.

Other problems in the ports, Colonel (rtd) Damoah said, included congestion, insecurity of goods due to theft and loss of containers, delays in clearance, poor port infrastructure, ineffective transportation system and inadequate transport services.

That notwithstanding, he said his outfit had over the years, taken the necessary steps  to improve service delivery and assured all importers and other stakeholders  that it would continue to strive for reforms that would  make the process less cumbersome.

He expressed the hope that the new Meridian Ports Services would be a game changer.

Mr Garvin Amavie, Corporate Monitoring  Manager  of GPHA , admitted that there were occasional friction between the two agencies and agreed that the issues needed to be resolved to help improve service delivery and boost revenue mobilisation.

Executive Director of GII, Linda Ofori-Kwafo, said it was crucial for action to be taken in respect to various administrative impasses in the sector, such as human and technical inefficiencies else the laudable interventions introduced by the government in recent years, would be ineffective.

BY JONATHAN DONKOR AND DEBORAH ASUMA

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