OSP directs Customs Division to halt vehicle auctioning

The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) has directed an immediate halt to all vehicles being auctioned by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).

It follows a latest investigation into suspected corruption and corruption-related offences in respect of auction sales of vehicles and other goods by the GRA between July 1, 2016 and August 15, 2022.

According to a statement issued by the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, yesterday, it had directed the Commissioner of the Customs Division on August 19, 2022 to produce some pertinent documentation to aid the probe on or before September 30, 2022.

The documents include the particulars and clear description of all auctioned items, the quantity of all auctioned items, the prices at which the items were auctioned, the date of each auction sale and the full names, addresses and telephone numbers of the successful bidders at all the auction sales.

“The Special Prosecutor further directed the Commissioner of the Customs Division to immediately halt and discontinue all auction sales till the investigation is concluded,” the statement added.

Following the enquiry that cited Labianca Company Limited, owned by Eunice Jacqueline BuahAsomah-Hinneh, a Council of State member who is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), for corruption-related acts, the OSP has since launched wider investigations into the issuance of customs advance rulings and markdowns of benchmark values by the Customs Division of the GRA.

The OSP in a statement issued on August 15, 2022 indicated that the investigations would cover the period July 2017 to December 2021.

It said it had found an “institutionalised culture of lighthearted unconcern among officers regarding impropriety of action at the Customs Division which indicates a high propensity to engender corruption and corruption-related activities.”

The OSP pointed out in its statement that “officers ignored mandatory provisions of the Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891) to engage in their own predilections.”

It thus directed the Commissioner of the Customs Division to submit the particulars of all applications for customs advance ruling, applications for a markdown of benchmark values, applications for private rulings and class rulings pertaining to the application of customs law and the decision on each of the applications within the specified period.

The SP further requested that an integrity plan from the GRA, aimed at preventing “corruption of the exercise of discretion by officials of the Customs Division, especially in respect of the rendering of rulings, to assure the effective operation of the Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891) and the Revenue Administration Act, 2016 (Act 915) on or before December 2022.”

Meanwhile, an amount of GH¢ 1.074 million has been recovered by the Special Prosecutor from alleged dealings between Labianca Company Limited and the GRA.

BY ABIGAIL ANNOH

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