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Uni-Pass takes off at entry points but freight forwarders criticise move

Ghana Ghana News

The new customs clearing system, known as Uni-Pass, will go live at all Ghana’s entry points, except the Tema Port.

This follows a directive by the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, that from March 1, 2020, importers will be required to clear their imports through the new customs management system at the entry points.

A list of 49 entry points expected to implement the Uni-Pass a paperless (electronic) customs management system was attached to the directive, which also urged freight forwarders or their representatives to take steps to obtain their access codes.

“Please let all freight forwarders or their representatives take steps to procure their access codes as demonstrated during the training and as outlined in the material,” it said.

While soliciting the cooperation of freight forwarders, it said the aim was “to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Ghana’s customs management regime”.

The directive, dated February 26, this year and signed by the Senior Minister, followed a meeting among the leadership of freight forwarders, officials of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Service (GRA) and a Deputy Minister of Finance at the Nick Royal Hotel in Tema on February 12, this year.

The meeting, it said, engaged the port users and associations on the new customs management regime and demonstrated how it would be used.

Uni-Pass explained

The Uni-Pass is a new port clearing system that processes documents and payments through one window. This, implementers say, will be a departure from the previous system where ‘valuation and classification’ and ‘risk management and payment’ were handled by different entities.

The system, being spearheaded by Ghana Link Services Ltd, in collaboration with Customs Uni-Pass International Agency (CUPIA) of the Korean Customs Service, the designer of the system, will replace the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAARS) and the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) jointly operated by the Customs Division, the Ghana Community Network Services (GCNet) Ltd and West Blue Consulting.

CUPIA Korea, which is assisting the Customs Division to implement the Uni-Pass system, has described it as an enhanced single window system for trade facilitation.

Further notices

The directive explained that imports through all other points of entry “shall be processed through the existing PAARS and the GCMS”, adding: “We will inform you about the date and time when the new system will be fully deployed and when imports will no longer be processed through PAARS and GCMS.”

With the Takoradi Port said to be hooked onto Uni-Pass since February 21, this year, and the addition of the 49 points of entry, the only places left for the roll out of the system are the Tema Port and the Kotoka International Airport (KIA).

The directive also said system-user manuals and audio-video training materials would be dispatched to freight forwarders and other port users through a committee formed for the purposes of the engagement.

That was to have been done by last Friday (February 28, 2020).

Copies, the directive said, would be published on the website of the GRA to complement the training that Customs had provided for the stakeholders so far.

“A well-equipped call centre is also ready to address the concerns of users and give a feedback to the Customs Division and the developer,” it added.

Entry points affected

It listed the points of entry to include six in the Western and the Western North regions, namely, Elubo, Half Assini, Jewi Wharf, Omanpe, Dadieso and Yakaase; 15 in the Volta and the Oti regions, including Aflao, Ho, Havi, Kpoglu, Akanu, Shia, Nyive, Honuta, Batume Junction, Likplevi Dafor and Wli Agorviefe.

Other areas in those regions are Menuso, Tinjase, Kpetoe and Agortime Afegame.

In the Upper East Region, there are eight entry points for implementing the new system, namely, Bolgatanga, Kulungugu, Paga and others, with Wa, Tumu and Lawra all being in the Upper West Region.

In the North East, Savannah and Northern regions, the entry points are Tamale, Bole, Bunkpurugu, Tatale, Yendi and Wonjuga.

The Bono, Bono East and Ahafo regions have Sunyani, Kofi Badukrom, Gonokrom, Yaakrom, Osei Kwadwokrom, Sampa, Atuna, Kwame Seikrom and Nkrankwanta listed.

Reaction

Meanwhile, the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) has expressed misgivings at the directive by the Senior Minister for the take-off of the Uni-Pass single window.

According to the group, the decision was a slap in the face, considering that no successful pilot had been undertaken to independently test the system’s robustness to accept the about 20,000 declarations that might be going through it daily.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Tema last Friday, the President of GIFF, Mr Edward Akrong, questioned the rationale behind the whole arrangement and wondered what the freight forwarders would do with the said access codes.

“You want us to get access codes: from who and onto what system? How are they going to operate?” Mr Akrong asked rhetorically.

He said apart from Elubo and Aflao, the other collection points listed in the Senior Minister’s directive were not on the GCNet system because those points used the single administrative document processes, since they did not have information technology (IT) platforms to perform import declaration electronically.

He said frontline users at Elubo especially, which served as a major point in the ECOWAS trade chain, had not received any form of training prior to their inclusion in the list for the take-off.

“I can tell you for a fact that no one at Elubo has been trained on the Uni-Pass system, nor have they been provided with the system user manuals, as well as audio video training manual materials which the letter said would be provided for freight forwarders and other relevant stakeholders,” he said.

Failed pilot

Mr Akrong also debunked suggestions that the Customs Division and the new providers of Uni-Pass had carried out a successful pilot of the system, saying: “We have received information from our branch chairpersons, especially at Aflao, that no system was tested; rather, some training was done for our members there.”

He said with Aflao and Elubo being included in the roll-out list, GIFF and its stakeholder bodies anticipated chaos at the two points from today, with cargo from Abidjan to Ghana or in transit to Togo and Nigeria lining up at the point, waiting to be processed through the Uni-Pass.

“I don’t know whether they will do manual processing, since the system is not yet up, and this is a recipe for further increase in trade cost for importers and traders,” he stressed.

The GIFF, in all sincerity, he intimated, had no idea whether the new system was superior to the existing ones, as being claimed, “and we are becoming jittery, since we don’t know what to expect”.

Daily Graphic


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