By Alfred K Dogbey
Authorities at the Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB), the regulatory body of Free Zones enterprises across the country, have declared operation ‘crack the whip and revoke licenses’ for free zones enterprises, who flout rules and regulations of the Board.
In view of the warning, the Board has since taken the trouble, spend resources, time and energy organizing seminars to “elaborate issues relating to the procedures and various legislative instruments governing the Board and Free Zones enterprises across the country.
At one such seminar for the Northern Sector Free Zones Enterprises held in Kumasi at Golden Tulip Hotel, last Friday, Acting Deputy Executive Secretary, Obuobia Darko-Opoku said, monitoring of the activities of Free Zones Enterprises was to ensure that “their operations are in line with the rules and regulations”.
The operational activities of some of the free zones enterprises in recent days, have become a huge source of embarrassment to the regulatory body and agencies.
Management is of the view that the continuous flouting of its Rules and Regulations by these enterprises, may be due to inadequate knowledge of the procedures and the various legislative instruments, such as the Free Zones Act, (Act 504), the Immigration Act of 2000 (Act 573), the
Internal Revenue Act of 2000 (Act 592), regulating the free zones and its collaborating agencies.
In view of this situation, Madam Darko-Opoku disclosed that management was of the belief that “it is necessary to have interactions with the operators with the view of updating them on some changes in their operational activities and remind them of the need to show interest in these procedures and laws as not to be ignorant of them”.
Madam Obuobia, who was accompanied by the Head of Compliance Department, John Adda Abuga and other senior management staff of the Board, were particularly concerned about the need to operate and adhere to the laws of other collaborating agencies since the Board has resolved not to countenance any enterprise that contravenes the laws after the seminars.
The seminar, which witnessed a massive turnout, had participants from the various enterprises under the free zone in Ashanti, Brong Ahafo as well as the Northern Regions. It was chaired by a Board member of FZB, ACP (Rtd) Alhaji Mahama Adams.
It was observed by The Herald that after the lectures by the regulatory agency, officials seemed clear in their minds, flaws regularly committed by some of these enterprises.
It also emerged at the seminar that many of the companies were unaware of the rules and regulations of the FZB and their collaborative agencies.
The tough-talking Head of Compliance, told the participants not to misconstrue the Free Zones laws to mean everything including, declaration of taxes among other things is free under the free zones enclaves.
According to Mr. Abuga, whether an organization makes profit or not, there is the need for such organization to declare its profit and also pay the required tax to the State.
Mr. Abuga appealed to enterprises to do proper, adequate and timely presentation of their returns to the secretariat.
He revealed how his department has discovered that many of the free zone enterprises do not have compliance management or policy, making it difficult for most companies to comply with the Board’s rules and regulation.
Without mincing words, the directors from Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and Ghana Immigration Services (GIS), separately threatened to arrest, remove and revoke the licenses of enterprises that go against the rules under the Free Zones.
The officers, James Sumabe, the Chief Revenue Officer from Customs Division of GRA and L.O Affrifah, Assistant Director of Immigration, who is also the Head of Enforcement and Intelligence, cautioned the participants to be cautious of their operations and dealings.
The Immigration boss, noted that they have the power to make inquiry, search, arrest, detain, prosecute and also remove any enterprise in the free zone enclave.
According to them, their outfit after the seminar, would be descending heavily on some of the companies whose unlawful dealings have come to the attention of the GRA and Immigration.
In her closing remark, Madam Darko-Opoku, prayed and wished the forum would help participants understand “the rules and regulations enshrined in the Ghana Free Zones Act and that of our collaborators”.
She added “we hope this seminar will prove to be productive, beneficial and worth your time”.
A similar seminar, has already been organized for the Free Zone Enterprises in the Greater Accra, Eastern, Volta and Central regions. That of the Western Region is yet to be held.