There is fast rising anxiety and tension among senior government officials along the corridors of power who gave a full assurance that Ghana Link/UNIPASS was capable of going live at the Takoradi Ports from April 1, without the assistance of West Blue and GCNet.
They are now bowing heads in shame, and playing the blame game, as the Ghana Link/UNIPAS system has for the umpteenth time failed to deliver and has started to cause disruptions in the trade facilitation chain.
DAY BREAK can report on authority that freight forwarders and importers who were compelled to register to use the new system are finding it difficult to clear their goods and some of them have therefore resorted to the existing vendors to save their goods from further delays.
Since the supposed take off, just one vessel with over 300 containers has been able to dock because of the COVID-19 restrictions but even with that, Ghana Link/UNIPASS is having challenges with the submission and processing of manifests.
Meanwhile some of the imports in the containers are perishables and the delay in clearing them has created some discomfort and unease among importers and freight forwarders.
Under normal times, there would have been over 20,000 containers to be cleared and judging by the current situation, hell would have broken lose if such volumes of containers had arrived for Ghana Link/UNIPASS to clear
Meanwhile, Senior Minister Yaw Osafo-Marfo has not relented in using his office to ensure the Ghana Link/UNIPASS deal goes through despite the controversies and challenges associated with the contract itself as well as the actual work of the company.
The exact interests of Yaw Osafo-Marfo, in the Ghana Link/UNIPASS controversial deal, if any, remain unknown but he has his name emerging from too many quarters and often time for contentious reasons.
Not only has both GCNet and West Blue confirmed that he had written to them requesting that they had over their systems to Ghana Link/UNIPASS but among all the government appointees and ministers, it was only the same Yaw Osafo-Marfo that got singled out by the Minority side of Parliament at a very recent press conference to raise red flags over the deal.
The Minority in their statement had noted that the GCNET/West Blue system has been audited by both local and international agencies and has been acclaimed globally for its robustness and efficiency; receiving some of the highest ISO certification for this as well as several local and international awards.
It said West Blue for instance has won some of the most recognised national and international awards; be it the World Customs Organisation’s International Best Practice Award, the National Information Technology Development e-Governance Award 2015, the Anas Aremeyaw Anas Transparency Award at the 2017 Ghana Shippers Awards or Best Technology and Innovative Award at the 2017 Ghana Maritime and Shippers Award.
“Unsurprisingly, the system the two companies have put together has not had any system breaches since its inception. Indeed, the system’s robustness in the midst of expanded port operations has been remarkable as evidenced through the increased revenues delivered year-in-year-out.
“So why will our government seek to replace such companies with a sole-sourced company with no proper track record in the business and with no verifiable superior systems? The closest anyone can affiliate Ghana Link to port services delivery is through its subsidiary Africa Link Inspections Company Ltd (ALIC) in Sierra Leone. ALIC was contracted by Sierra Leone to deliver an end-to-end system in 2012 but as at January, 2020 when their contract was being terminated, they were yet to deliver.
“The Company was found not only to have failed to implement important and vital components of their contract, but also to have in connivance with their parent company, Ghana Link, allegedly manipulated financial records for tax evasion purposes. Again, the Sierra Leonean Authorities also found that ALIC had allegedly failed to pay taxes to the tune of Le45 billion. The government has accordingly initiated steps for the abrogation of their contract with the company.
“In Ghana also, its earlier scanning and valuation service was noted to be poor.
“In spite of these negative factors, our government led by President Akufo-Addo has decided to replace companies that have been delivering improved services and revenues; companies that are acclaimed globally for their capacity and transparency (as shown by the awards mentioned earlier), with a Company that has been found not only to be incompetent and incapable of delivering a Single Window system, but also allegedly, very corrupt.
“The only reason this can happen is when there are ulterior motives”, the statement noted.