Customs Barks At Presidential Taskforce

Customs Barks At Presidential Taskforce

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As United Steel Company Refute Tax Evasion Claim By Dr. Apaak

Many companies continue to rebut claims by some members of the Presidential Task Force, who recently claimed they had uncovered massive fraud being perpetrated against the State.

Aside the rebuttals, there are also suggestions coming from certain quarters that the taskforce, has become a law unto itself with no one daring to question their operations. Those who dared to, suffer one form of abuse or another, including threats of assaults, arrests and insults.

Even some State Agencies like the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) and officials of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) have raised concerns over the operations of the taskforce contesting fraud claims thrown at them.

They expressed grave concern about how these officers of the taskforce go about discharging their duties in the name of President John Mahama, as well as, his Chief of Staff, Prosper Bani, and warned that sooner than later an otherwise laudable idea by President Mahama could become very embarrassing.

The Herald has cited documents, including two memo written by two senior officials of Customs, one Charles N. Sabblah, a Sector Commander and Lawrence Anang, a Principal Collector. The two are recommending disciplinary sanctions against the Presidential Taskforce, headed by Michael Nunoo alias Nii Adotey Din Barima.

The Customs officials in particular, were of the view that some members of the Presidential Task Force, were already embarrassing the government with their media-hyped claims of fraud, involving some private companies, because some of these reports are false.

The Herald has also been informed of some worrying incidents involving the taskforce or persons using the name of the Taskforce to serve their own desires. For instance, last August, there was a shooting incident at the Asikuma Customs Barrier in the Eastern Region by two persons, Quist and Jerry in the name of the Presidential Taskforce without any provocation.

Quist, Jerry and others numbering about 7, are said to have formed a parallel taskforce conducting their own operations unknown to top officers. They are not members of the taskforce, but are said to be operating on the orders of some influential officials inside the Flagstaff House, one of who goes by the name Oroko. A Toyota Land Cruiser and Toyota Corolla with registration numbers, GN 4405 13 and GR 3959 13 were said to have been used in that illegal operations.

Meanwhile, officials of a steel supplying company, United Steel Company Limited, have also joined Hippo Group of Companies and B5 Plus Limited to vehemently denied ever owing the state over US$86 million.

According to United Steel Company, it is still puzzled as to how the Presidential Taskforce managed to arrive at the US$86 million claim against them, since they have not evaded tax.

United Steel Company Limited, reveals that the report could not be factual, especially so when the company has been voted by Customs as the leading taxpaying company in the country.

According to the company, any methodical check by members of the Presidential Taskforce, who visited the companies premises on October7, 2013 and met with its Operations Manager, Fadi El-Chami, they could have cleared their curiosity, adding, the company’s doors are open for any investigation into their operations.

Few weeks ago, the taskforce with it spokesperson and a Presidential Aide, Dr. Clement Apaak, revealed in the media that they had identified some illegalities being perpetuated by some 280 companies, who with the connivance of some Customs Officers assigned to manned these bonded warehouses in Accra, have compromised on their job leading to the State losing a total of US$367 million over a seven year period.

But reports and memos sighted by The Herald have pointed to the contrary with some Custom Officers critical of the activities of the Presidential Taskforce and also disputed Dr. Apaak’s report. They questioned the motive behind the invasion of these companies by some members of the Taskforce.

One of the documents argued that Dr. Apaak’s report is not complete, because it had ignored a forensic audit of the Customs Automated System provided and controlled by GCNet, as they know for a fact that the amount being thrown around was underestimated.

Part of the report states that “the report is very likely a cover-up of GCNet fraud perpetuated by GCNet Managers and investigated by Customs in September/October 2010 on a tip off from a whistle blower, Joe Onyame.

They argued that United Steel Limited, has been a victim of some underhand dealings and figure manipulations by GCNet. This was discovered and reported to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) Commissioner-General, the then GRA Board and then Minister for Finance, Dr. Kwebena Duffour, with copies of reports served on them.

“However, they all deliberately refused to act on the serious findings of the report”.

The document continued that, the current report by the Presidential Aide, Dr. Apaak “must be analyzed in terms of another attempt at a GCNet cover-up of their guilty participation in the gigantic fraud” as it excludes essential features therefore inaccurate.

In another hand written document sighted by this paper about the operations of Presidential Taskforce, another Customs officer in an angry mood questioned why the taskforce rushed to the media with their so-called expose’ without getting inputs from the Customs Division.

The officer decried the phenomena where anytime government is under pressure to deliver, the Customs is often used as scapegoat, recalling a situation some ten years ago, where Minister of Finance, Yaw Osafo-Marfo, banned Officers from using mobile phones.

He alleged that information coming from the embattled companies is that some of them have lost huge investment and contracts with their foreign companies, due to the allegations leveled against them by the Taskforce.

The officer questioned the relevance of the Taskforce, directing that their so-called job could seriously be performed by a credible Audit Firm.

The source was particularly worried about how the many media reports on the issue was going to demoralize the Officers, who have over the years worked to mobilize revenue for the State in spite of their scanty resources.

Meanwhile, one of the memos filed by one Charles N. Sabblah, a Sector Commander, to the Commissioner of Customs, dated October 9, 20013 has asked that the Presidential Taskforce “be brought to order to ensure they work within the Customs Laws and Regulations they seek to enforce”.

“Additionally, their conduct may have to be reported to the appropriate authorities, like Internal Affairs (Customs), PIPS (Police), Military Police (Ghana Armed Forces), etc, for the necessary disciplinary sanctions”, against member of the taskforce.

Lawrence Anang, a Principal Collector in his memo lamented over the conduct of the Taskforce and its maltreatment of a Customs officer by name, Regina Abban, a Senior Collector stationed at United Steel Company warning “in as much as we want to be cooperative by being civil in our dealings with the public and other recognized institutions, we will not compromise on basic service norms and ethics”. More to come..