…As System Challenges Worsen
Government may have had the best of intentions for insisting that Nick Danso’s Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS takes over the single window and paperless ports operations but the feedback from importers and patrons of the ports system has been very negative as the system is fraught with never ending challenges.
Initially, the challenges were dismissed as ‘teething problems’ but they seem to have become the new normal with officials of the Ghana Revenue Authority-Customs Division defending the system in public but resorting to agonized-grumbling off record.
In a quest to prevent offences, cracks and divisions with the ruling party, the sensitive issue of the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS embarrassment is being kept under wraps especially when general elections are near.
Vice President Bawumia, for instance, has gone mute over the hitherto loud noise he was making over how the Nana Addo-led government has introduced and successfully implemented a paperless ports regime which has made Ghana become an envy of the west African sub-region when trade facilitation and the ease of doing business is mentioned.
Currently, the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS system is making exporters from other countries who use Ghana as a transit point start to move to neighboring countries.
Apart from the fact that the ease of doing business and trade facilitation has been disrupted, importers and stakeholders at the port are really at the receiving end of the anomalies and their businesses continue to suffer losses through no fault of theirs.
For instance, unlike the past systems operated by GCNet and West Blue, this new Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS system is causing delays in getting a valuation for importers to pay duty.
There is also an unexplained delay in container delivery, something that was sorted our within 24-hours under the GCNet system. This same container delivery is now taking several days under the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS system.
The network is also reported to be generally inconsistent network with no prior notifications to importers and patrons of system breakdowns.
The new system is also encountering challenges with processing goods in transit that are only passing through Ghana but actually meant for other destinations.
Though proponents of the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS project told Ghanaians the platform is superior and would boost revenue generation, the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), has confirmed officially that there was a revenue shortfall of over 45 percent at the Tema ports even under the same UNIPASS-ICUMS system for the month of June.
Expert opinion has held very largely that the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS platform is most likely to get worse and cause further revenue loss and disruption in trade facilitation.