For the past two years, tension has been brewing between stakeholders and the government over an electronic customs administration system yet to be fully implemented at the country’s ports.
Named UNIPASS, the system was designed by South Korean company UNIPASS with its local partner Ghana Link Network Services after it was awarded a $40 million 10-year contract by the government in March 2018.
That meant UNIPASS would take over the country’s National Single Window system currently jointly operated by Ghana Community Network Limited (GCNet) and Customs World Dubai (West Blue).
The controversy over value for money, efficiency and possible judgement debt has delayed the full implementation of the system until now, yet the dust has not settled on the matter.
Last week, IMANI Ghana, called on the government to reconsider its decision on the matter, arguing that the “untested UNIPASS system, when deployed, would disrupt the paperless system, destroy the gains chalked so far and the government would lose millions of dollars at the ports.”
In a statement, the founding president of the policy think tank, Mr Franklin Cudjoe, said the effect of UNIPASS on the trading community and revenue generation for the government had been lamented by many users of the ports.
“Those users had complained that the UNIPASS system was not newer than or superior to what was being used currently at the ports, after it had been demonstrated to them by CUPIA of Korea Customs Services,” he said.
He added that the two existing vendors providing single window operations in Ghana together were taking 0.68 per cent, “which is far below what UNIPASS is going to take (0.75 per cent).”
Despite these concerns, the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) yesterday announced that it would, from next week, pilot the UNIPASS system at the Takoradi Port in the Western Region.
The Commissioner of Customs, Colonel Kwadwo Damoah (rtd) rebuffed assertions that the abrogation of the contract of the two companies operating the current system, would result in judgement debts, explaining that value for money consideration had been made.
The Ghanaian Times is concerned that the search for a system that would streamline and smoothen clearing at the port has raged on for this long period.
The port clearing is a serious business considering its contribution to the economy thus anything that has to do with this sector must not be taken lightly.
We therefore expect the government to engage all stakeholders and the two companies so we would have a system that would solve the challenges we have at the ports, especially the revenue leakages and cumbersome process.
It is in order that the government has said it is scrutinising every aspect of the contracts of the two existing companies managing the system and we hope that due diligence would be done.
As the host of the African Continental Free Trade Area secretariat, which comes in operation in July, we should be prepared to make the best of it. An impasse over port operations should not be allowed to be a hindrance.