IMANI identifies challenges in Tema port clearing system

Imani Africa has reiterated its appeal to the government to as a matter of urgency temporarily suspend operations of UNI-PASS and allow GCNET and West Blue to operate for the remainder of the year.

Reacting to the current challenges confronting the use of the new system in its latest update IMANI Africa in a statement issued by Franklin Cudjoe, President of IMANI Africa said ICUMS/UNIPASS system had no pricing data against which they could determine current prices and respective taxes that must be paid to the state.

The statement said Customs officers at the Tema port have resorted to the manual process of releasing goods to freight forwarders and clearing agents at the Tema port.

This is to ease the tension at the Tema Port as a result of the clearing agents’ inability to clear goods electronically through the UNIPASS system, now Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS).

The statement alleged that ICUMS/ UNIPASS did not have data on cars coming from Japan for instance adding that “which is why a vehicle that cost GH¢12, 000 to clear on the GCNET/West Blue platform now clears for GH¢ 6,000 on a very manual UNIPASS.”.
 
“When UNIPASS attempts to use its electronic platform, a 2016 model Chevrolet could be processed for GH¢ 14,” the statement alleged.

The statement said clearing agents were being asked to manually pay the difference in expected values/ prices/ taxes on goods poorly assessed by UNIPASS/ICUMS.
 
Quoting a freight forwarder, the statement said, “Now all risk levels of consignments are manually routed to examination platform for physical examination to be conducted after scanning. Under normal circumstances in GCNET/West Blue era, yellow consignments are supposed to exit after scanning if the image analysed is without any discrepancies. Green consignments are supposed to exit the port after scanning without any human interference while, Red channel are physically examined. This is because scanned images together with the details of the declaration cannot be accessed in the UNIPASS/ICUMS system”

“It takes more than a week to manually clear a single vehicle. Imagine the loss in revenues in a pandemic era. Revenues are down by 30 per cent in Takoradi. Tema is incalculable.  Imagine the impact on our neighbour landlocked countries that rely on our ports- Imagine the cascading impact on warehousing of goods, tracking and retail prices for ordinary consumers like us,” it said.

The Ag. Assistant Commissioner, Annabella Peprah-Foli in a notice to all customs officers said the Ministry of Trade has directed the cessation of upfront Ministry Department and Agencies (MDA) fees.

“As a result, officers should not query or reject Bill of Entries (BOEs) based on the non-submission of MDA permits. For strict compliance till further notice”, the notice said.

but GRA denies claims

Reacting to the IMANI statement signed and issued in Accra yesterday by Florence Asante, Assistant Commissioner Communication & Public Affairs, Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) said “It is not the case that port operations have reverted to the pre-2002 manual system. All transactions from June 1, 2020 have been processed through ICUMS. The manual process was resorted to for addressing transactions that commenced in GCMS/GCNET but had not been cleared before June 1, 2020.”

The statement said “This mitigation strategy was needed because GCNET did not provide data for those transactions in the right format. It is inaccurate to state that ICUMS has no established values for customs valuation. GRA valuation methods are based on section 67 of the Customs Act 2015, Act 891, and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) valuation protocols. Over time, GRA has built a Transactional Pricing Database that serves as a reference for valuation.”

 It said ICUMS had the Transactional Pricing Database fully integrated into its system adding that Customs continuously acquires Home Delivery Values Database from the National Automobile Dealers Association (of USA) and other accredited international dealers.

The Home Delivery Values database the statement explained contained information and values of vehicles, and also has details of vehicles manufactured from Asia.

“ICUMS has fully integrated the Home Delivery Values Database into the process flow. The database is continuously updated as new vehicles are manufactured. Indeed, Sections 60 and 61 of the Customs Act 2015, Act 891 define this procedure. In reference to the vehicle that was purportedly valued at GH¢12,000.00 in GCMS/GCNET, but was valued at GH¢6,000.00 in ICUMS, GRA does not have evidence of such a transaction,” the statement said

“In reference to the vehicle that was valued at GH¢14.00, it is a case of fraudulent activity by an agent. As stated before, in order to facilitate the clearance of vehicles with duties paid in GCMS/GCNET, but not cleared before June 1st, GRA created a Customs Procedure Code (CPC) 40D23 in ICUMS to allow those transactions to skip the valuation step. The agent falsely declared USD1.00 as the value for the vehicle, and claimed that he had paid the duty in GCNET and therefore used the CPC 40D23 to process the transaction,” the statement explained.

It said “the GH14.00 was the summation of the Ghana Shippers Authority fee of GH¢9.00 and Ministry of Trade and Industry Import Declaration Form (IDF) fee of GH¢5.00. The system detected the fraudulent transaction at the compliance stage and raised a query that very day. Till date the agent has not responded to the query. The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) Import Declaration Form (IDF) is not generated for the declaration of used vehicles.”

“Also, it is inaccurate to say that ICUMS is ‘poorly’ assessing goods. As stated before, the examples of the GH¢14.00 duty for vehicle and the GH¢6000.00 undervaluation of another vehicle are not substantiated. Therefore, no declarant has been begged to pay manually for any difference in duties and taxes. As part of routine customs processes, there are instances where officers observe under declaration or under-valuation. In such instances, the officer generates a Customs Offence Report (COR) which requires the agent pays the difference in duty to the state,” it said.

The Sector Commander for Takoradi Collection has not in any way begged freight forwarders to use any new tax code for payment. She rather directed that short collections be paid according to specific tax codes.

BY TIMES REPORTER

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