Gov’t allays fears over efficiency of UNI-PASS ….But IMANI calls for temporary suspension of operations

The government has debunked reports UNI-PASS, has no track record and the required competence to execute its mandate.

It said, “The UNI-PASS technology has been deployed successfully in Tanzania since 2015 under the name Tancis, which World Customs Organisation (WCO) has acclaimed as one of the best innovative trade facilitation systems. Cameroun, like Ghana, has deployed the same technology after successfully developing their system early this year.”

It also stated that “in Ecuador, in South America, the system has successfully been deployed since 2010 and it is still operating. The best place to see the efficacy of this UNIPASS customs management technology is in South Korea itself where since 1998, the system has been deployed to successfully manage their complex and far bigger customs operations.”

The government further revealed that as part of efforts to ensure a successful implementation of the system, it embarked on a one-year comprehensive programme where staff of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and officials of other relevant stakeholders was trained on the system.

It also said there were records at the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Trade and Industry which clearly indicated that the government took a decision to deploy the UNI-PASS single window service to address the issues arising from the transition from the existing Customs Management System to a new end-to-end trade facilitation regime.

Cabinet in January, 2019, set up a Joint Inter-Ministerial Oversight Committee (JIMOC) under the chairmanship of the Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo-Maafo, to oversee the smooth implementation of the new custom management system.

The JIMOC has held several meetings with the various vendors on the essence and considerable impact of the new custom management system hence an amicable transition to the new system.

“Simulation exercises, scalability and stress tests of the new system have been conducted and have all proved favourable and the reports are available for review at the Ministry of Trade and Industry,” the statement added.

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

IMANI, in a petition signed by its Founding President and CEO, Mr Franklin Cudjoe, said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on government’s revenue this year and the 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¢10 billion 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 was 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 said.

“It added that the US$500m debt stand still 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.

Though admitting that every new system has its challenges, IMANI maintains that, “It is difficult to ascertain this claim, as there has been no independent verification of the robustness of the system. COVID-19 has erased almost six per cent of the country’s expected end-year growth of 7.5 per cent laving 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 UNI-PASS system. However, I am convinced that when the above steps are sanctioned, these officers who appear to be taking directives from superiors from non-existent data will have a rethink. They could be vindicated on the superiority of the UNI-PASS too,” the petition added.

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