Our ports have been de-degitised to pre-2002 era. Shipping lines, freight forwarders/ clearing agents are now being requested to provide photocopies of documents previously used to clear goods on the more efficient, but crudely sacked GCNET/West Blue platform as basis for manual verification of similar goods currently being imported/exported.
Never mind, that values, prices change all the time. This in essence means, the acclaimed superior ICUMS/UNIPASS system has NO pricing data against which they could determine current prices and respective taxes that must be paid to the state.
ICUMS/ UNIPASS does not have data on cars coming from Japan for instance.Which is why a vehicle that cost Ghs12,000 to clear on the GCNET/West Blue platform now clears for GHs 6,000 on a very manual UNIPASS.
Better still, when UNIPASS attempts to use its quack electronic platform a 2016 model chevrolet could be processed for Ghs 14. Yes, you read right, Ghs 14!!.
Clearing Agents are reportedly being begged to manually pay the difference in expected values/ prices/ taxes on goods poorly assessed by UNIPASS.
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 what they used to pay on GCNET.
One freight forwarder said to me this evening, "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/WestBlue 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"
And then 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% 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!
If UNIPASS was this superior, 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. They have virtually become clearing agents themselves busily vouching for a system that is deliveing impressive pain and draining needed revenues.
Makes mockery of Ghana hosting AfCTA. But there is a method and a reason for this paralysis-- the deputy minister confessed to me on Metro TV that he had not seen or read the UNIPASS contract. Let that sink in.
IMANI has suggested to the government to ;
A. Temporarily suspend operations of UNI-PASS and allow GCNET and West Blue to operate for the remainder of the year in order to assure the nation of revenues, most likely GHS10bn given depressed trade activity due to covid-19.
B. Conduct an independent review of the UNI-PASS system.
C. The Ministry of Trade and Finance should share revenue projections from implementing UNI-PASS with Ghanaians.