…Thousands Of Workers Going Home
By Gifty Arthur
Importers at the Tema Port, have raised fresh objection to treatment being meted out to them by officials of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), which has created, a huge disparity in the value chain regime undermining fair competition at the nation’s main Port.
It is the second time, this year, that the importers are crying foul, after earlier protest in June, where they complained against unfair competition as a result of preferential values for duty/tax purposes, favouring two alleged companies, belonging to the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) financier, Eunice Jacqueline Buah.
The Tema-based woman, popularly known as Lady Bianca, the Western Regional representative to the Council of State, had her two companies; White Stone Frozen Foods Limited and M&JEES Company, benefitting immensely from the deliberate disparity engineered by the officers at the Ministry of Finance and the GRA, as result of her membership of the NPP.
The Herald reported months ago, that the two companies, were charged between $0.60 to 0.64 cents as customs value per kilogramme on a Frozen Chicken Leg Quarters and a Chicken Back, goes for between $0.35 to 0.38 cents that is brought into the country, compared to its competitors being charged $0.90 cents to $1 dollar and $0.7 to 0.80 dollar cent per kilogramme respectively on the same frozen items.
Madam Buah’s unfair business dealings according to The Herald sources, threw many of these importers out of business sending home many workers, whose daily bread depends on the frozen food business.
However, due to a quick intervention by the Commissioner General of the GRA, after this paper reported on the happenings at the Port and Mr. Nti, met with the importers, the matter was somewhat resolved within a very short period of time with a promise to the importers to fully rectify the matter by September, this year.
But shockingly, the GRA, has gone back to the preferential treatment for NPP financier, to the detriment of other importers.
Madam Buah, apart from her position as a Council of State member, has also been placed on the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) board, making her an influential person in the industry feared by many, including custom officers. With her party in office and her closeness to many people, including the First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, she get her way around by circumventing the rules.
A petition from the importers to GRA boss and cited by The Herald reads; “Our clients further refers to a meeting held with you on the 5th day of July 2017 which your office accepted to lower the valuation for the rest of the industry to acceptable world market prices and initiate measures from the beginning of September 2017, to make the value transparent and reflective of the general world prices and thus avoid the wide disparity in the values that they have experienced”.
Few months into the resolution of the issue, the importers are back in the news, complaining bitterly about activities of these same Custom officials, who have reneged on the directive by their boss.
According to the petition addressed to the Commissioner General of GRA, the importers say, the action by the Custom officials stationed at the Tema Port, has led to differences in charges by the GRA customs division, as happened in June.
With the reappearance of the preferential treatment, the poultry importers, who are unable to compete with their politically connected colleague, have been left in the cold, unable to clear their goods, allowing her companies, to have a field day to import for the big market space.
The latest pettion dated October 10, 2017, issued on behalf of the importers by their lawyers, Globetrotters Legal Africa, has been dispatched to Ministers of Finance, Trade and Industry, Senior Minister, Chief of Staff, and others.
It lamented that “the Customs Division has reneged on the assurances you gave our client by approving preferential values for one company in the industry”.
The group disclosed that, the differences in the amount charged, have led to job cuts as they are unable to compete fairly at the Port and so are unable to cater for more hands.
“The wide disparity created by the grant of these values has resulted in the laying of workers threatening to push many of the members of our Client’s organization out of business due to huge losses sustained between July-September 2017”, they cried.
The disturbed importers pleaded with the GRA boss, Mr. Nti, to revise the decision, especially as the Christmas festivities approach so that beginning next year, clear and transparent measures are put in place to sustain the frozen foods industry.
“For the above reason, our Clients petitions your office to revise the benchmark values by replacing them with the preferential values attached from now to December 2017 while you take steps to implement a transparent valuation system, to save the industry”, the petition said adding “Our clients also assured you of their willingness to help your office achieve it revenue objectives by cooperating fully with you in all your endeavours”.