The manual process of releasing goods to freight forwarders and clearing agents at the Tema port as result of the faulty implementation of the controversial UNIPASS deal, has resulted in serious undervaluation of many imported items and a huge revenue loss to the country.
Over the week, the faulty platform, which had seen return of the manual process of clearing goods from the ports, led to the clearing of a 2016 model of Chevrolet Spark hatchback saloon car imported from New York City - America for paltry GH¢14 by an importer named Amoateng Eric of 1182 Awudome- Accra.
Some self-seeking individuals in the Akufo-Addo government, suspecting that the Mahama administration cut a deal with the West Blue and GCNET to enrich themselves in and out of government, decided to undo a tried a tested platform with the UNIPASS transaction to also enrich themselves.
The outcome has been catastrophic; an end to the highly rated paperless port policy led by Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, delays, frustration of both importers and clearing agents, demonstrations at both Takoradi and Tema Ports among others.
Exactly a week ago, Trade Minister Alan Kyeremanten, his deputy Carlos Ahenkro and the boss of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) were hooted at by clearing agents and importers at the Tema Port as they tried to calm nerves over the failures of the ICUMS (UNIPASS) system. They were forced to dash into their cars and whisked away as the crowed grew bigger and angrier.
Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Marfo, has been linked to the UNIPASS transaction and has succeeded in wiping out the gains made by Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, with the paperless policy.
A copy of the Customs declaration form on Chevrolet Spark hatchback saloon car in the custody of The Herald shows that the declarant was not charged for import duty, import VAT, processing fee, ECOWAS Levy GETFUND Levy, Net Charge VAT, Vehicle Examination fee, Network charge, Net charge VAT, Import NHIL, NET Charge NHIL, IRS Tax deposit, Ghana Health Service (GHS) Disinfection fee, Special Import Levy, Ghana Export and Import Bank EXIM and Network Charges GETFUND and Africa Union Import Levy.
The declarant by name Reliable Logistics and Service Limited of House Number 52 Saki Michel Camp, Tema was only charged GHC9 for Ghana Shippers Council SNF Fee and GHC5 for MOTI E-IDF Fee of GHC5, totally GHc14 for the Chevrolet Spark hatchback 2016-made vehicle.
IMANI Boss, Franklin Cudjoe, in a statement observed that 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 Ghc12,000 to clear on the GCNET/West Blue platform now clears for GHs6,000 on a very manual UNIPASS.
“Better still, when UNIPASS attempts to use its quack electronic platform, a 2016 model Chevrolet could be processed for Ghc14. Yes, you read right, GHC14!!”, he stated.
Mr Cudjoe, said clearing agents are reportedly being begged to manually pay the difference in expected values/ prices/ taxes on goods poorly assessed by UNIPASS.
According to him, it even takes more than a week to manually clear a single vehicle, stating“Imagine the loss in revenues in a pandemic era. - Revenues are down by 30percent in Takoradi. Tema is incalculable.
“Imagine the impact on our neighbor landlocked countries that rely on our ports- Imagine the cascading impact on warehousing of goods, tracking and retail prices for ordinary consumers like us!” he said.
He, therefore, appealed to the government to as a matter of urgency, 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.
Meanwhile, the Ag. Assistant Commissioner, Annabella Peprah-Foli, in a notice to all customs officers, said the Ministry of Trade, has directed the cessation of upfront Ministry, Department and Agencies (MDA) fees.
“As a result, officers should not query or reject Bill of Entries (BOEs) based on the non-submission of MDA permits. For strict compliance till further notice”, the notice said.
This means that importers and clearing agents can now go through the supposedly superior ICUMS system without permits for food, medicine, and chemicals among others.
Last Friday, ICUMS in a notice published on its website titled “ICUMS Go Live – Manual release process” confirmed the manual process currently ongoing at the portsto its customers and the explained the new procedures at the ports.
It read, “following the Go-Live of the new ICUMS (UNIPASS) system, since 1st June 2020, and the MANUAL release process currently put in place by GRA-CUSTOMS, please note the following new procedure required for Import Cargo Release or Delivery Order issuance”.
The release said that “CMA CGM Ghana is required to send email to Customs / ICUMS team requesting for confirmation of BOE payment”, adding “CMA CGM will receive confirmation/green light by email from GRA / ICUMS team, prior proceeding to issuance of Delivery order”.
It noted that “CMA CGM Ghana is required to send Cargo Release Order to Terminal by email for final release to Consignee”.
“In order to reduce waiting time and make above manual process quicker and more efficient for our Customers, CMA CGM Ghana requests Customers to provide us with the following information in advance, in order to verify BOE payment details with GRA/Customs prior Customers approaching CMA CGM for Delivery Order (kindly state the BL number in the subject of the email)Scanned Copy of Receipt for payment of Customs Duties and Copy of Declaration / Entry.
It mentioned Declaration number, Declarant TIN, Declarant Name, Agent ID, Agent Name, Agent TIN, Release Type (i.e. First Release or Final), Delivery Instruction (i.e. H/H, Unstuffing) and Delivery Place as additional information required by terminals prior to final cargo release.
This information it said, must be included in an email request to “CMA CGM Ghana to enable us to serve you quicker and reduce the undue delays experienced due to the current manual Cargo Release Process”.
Meanwhile customer insiders, have made some serious observations about the platform saying that shipping lines cannot release cargo from the ICUMS platform while declarant cannot do manifest matching on the ICUMS platform
They also stated that ICDS cannot do anything on the ICUMS platform while declarant cannot do request for service on the ICUMS platform
It was also observed that, previous declarations from GICCS, cannot populate on the ICUMS platform when it is required for further processing for suspense regimes.
There were errors in the duty calculation and also customs could not accept or reject amendment request, they revealed.
The Ghana Ports and Habours Authority (GPHA), cannot create invoice for clients on the ICUMS platform.
There were also delays at CTSB, while some of the TIN numbers, could not populate on the ICUMS platform and most cargoes could not be carried in on the new platform at the Tema Port.