As we went to press, information reaching us indicate that the Ministry of Trade and Industry has sealed a 10-year sole sourced deal with Ghana Link Network Services Ltd to embark on a single window trade facilitation project at the country’s ports.
The deal comes at a time when two existing companies, consisting of GCNet and West Blue have an existing deal with government to deliver similar products in ensuring that the nation does not lose revenue at the ports.
It is also surprising when there are already concerns of over duplication among the two pioneer companies, GCNet and West Blue.
Tight lipped MOTI sources indicated that the oncoming company is billed to begin rolling out its programmes, when little or no consultations with stakeholders have been held.
Additionally, DAYBREAK learnt, there was no competitive bidding in the hurriedly-contrived deal.
Recently, the media reported that the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) has given indication the double window platform at the ports will continue to exist until such a time that operators become absolutely conversant with the single window platform being handled by West Blue Consulting.
According to the GPHA, the co-existence of the operations of the Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) and West Blue Consulting at the ports is due to the slow pace of adoption of the single window platform provided by West Blue Consulting.
Speaking to Citi Business News on the issue, the Terminal Supervisor at the GPHA, Emmanuel Ashaley Neequaye argued that it may take some time for a complete takeover by West Blue Consulting.
“We have become more useful to the GCNet system, we are now trying to incorporate the West Blue system and it is a separate platform and I think people have not gotten used to that platform very well so they all rely on the GCNet platform,”
“They do but not on the larger scale like the GCNet system. I think that eventually the GCNet would fade out for West Blue to come in but people have not gotten used to it. It also has to do with the problem that is often associated with the GCNet system,” he added.
The apparent duplication of roles by West Blue and GCNet despite the collapse of all activities by the Destination Inspection Companies in 2015, has been viewed as contributing to the excessive delays at the ports.
The Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has also bemoaned the development and called for an immediate resolution.
Mr. Ashaley Neequaye also expressed worry at the persistent technical breakdowns with GCNet’s system which accumulates the workloads due to delays.
He is however confident that the seeming confusion over the existence of the two platforms should cease with an eventual phasing out of GCNet’s operations.
“Unfortunately, the problem that is currently facing us is the frequent breakdown in the network. So sometime it holds down our activities for two to four hours and that is the problem that we are facing currently with the GCNet system,” he remarked.
Mr. Neequaye who was speaking at the sidelines of of a workshop on challenges for multilateral trading system – Perspectives from West Africa further intimated,
“The problem is a technical one and with the interconnectivity, the systems go off whenever the weather gets bad. This has been there since the inception of GCNet. Sometimes when the weather gets clear, it will work normal for about two months, but when it is raining, it goes off, when it’s stormy too same challenge. At other times too you wouldn’t be able to determine what the problem is.”
In another report, Freight Forwarders in the country had blamed the duplication of works at the Tema Port on the activities of West Blue Consulting and GCNet.
According to them, there appears to be some tension between the two companies tasked to provide validation services and help in the implementation of the Single Window Project.
Appealing to the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia to help address the issue, the President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) Mr. Kwabena Ofosu-Appiah stated at conference in Accra that the turf war is getting unhealthy for revenue mobilization.
“Why should two traders buying from the same source on the same conveyance be handed two contrasting outcomes, this does not build well for compliance, it forces those who want to be compliant to go out fishing,” he pointed out.
Mr. Ofosu-Appiah explained that “there are two major IT solution providers– that is West Blue and GCNet. The fact that they have two different terms of reference known under different conditions deliver a problem.
He stated that the conflict between the two companies emanate from the sector ministries that supervise them.
“The mandate of West Blue Consulting is from the Finance Ministry through GRA while that of GCNet is under Trade Ministry. The government of Ghana is the ultimate client but the truth of the matter is that there is always tension between the two anytime they must cooperate to deliver a seamless solution for the larger course,” he narrated.
Citing some examples, Mr. Ofosu-Appiah said that there have many instances where the activities of one company had been usurped and given to the other.
“A case in point was when the IBF module was plugged off from GCNet platform to the Ghana Trading Hub that is the Pre-arrival Assessment Reporting Systems (PAARS). Another classic case is the call of manifest onto PAARS platform creating anxiety within GCNet which used to have the manifest”.
“The two scenarios justify a turf war, because one can only survive if their bargaining powers are intact. But while they are at it trade facilitation as well as port efficiency suffers with its attendant cost,” he warned.
Mr. Ofosu-Appiah made the assertions in the presence of stakeholders and the Vice President, Dr. Bawumia.