Policy think tank IMANI Africa says UNIPAS, which is the new Customs Management system introduced at Ghana’s ports and frontiers is causing the country millions in loses.
In a release copied to GhanaWeb, the group says the new system which was introduced to improve efficiency at the ports has in digital terms set the nation back close to two decades as shipping lines, freight forwarders and clearing agents are now being requested to provide photocopies of documents previously used to clear goods on the previously used GCNET/West Blue platform as the basis for manual verification of similar goods currently being imported/exported.
According to IMANI, this mode of operation means that UNIPASS, as it stands, has no pricing data against which it can determine current prices and respective taxes that must be paid to the state on imported or exported goods.
Revealing further on the failures of the UNIPASS system, IMANI says a car shipped from Japan which was previously cleared for GH¢12,000 on the GCNET/WEST Blue platform is now being cleared for GH¢6,000 on the ICUMS/UNIPASS platform. Describing the UNIPASS system as quack, IMANI states in the release that a 2016 model Chevrolet could now be cleared for as low as GHC14 using the system.
Owing to this, IMANI says the Tarkoradi sector commander of Customs is reported to be begging clearing agents and gives them special tax codes to manually pay duty difference if they realize their duties “have come down” compared to what they used to pay on GCNET.
It also says the UNIPASS system which takes more than a week to manually clear a single car is currently causing the state incalculable losses at the Tema port whiles revenue at the Takoradi port is down by 30%.
According to IMANI, if the UNIPASS system is superior as is being claimed by the government, “it shouldn’t take the Trade Minister and one of his deputies three months to be visiting the ports just to calm unending protests by shipping/clearing agents,” as “they have virtually become clearing agents themselves busily vouching for a system that is delivering impressive pain and draining needed revenues.”
IMANI has therefore recommended that government suspends 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 GHC10 billion given depressed trade activity due to COVID-19.
The think tank is also calling on the government to conduct an independent review of the UNI-PASS system and has asked the Ministry of Trade and Finance to share revenue projections from implementing UNI-PASS with Ghanaians.