Policy think-tank IMANI Africa has warned that all the progress made at the ports are under serious threat because of efforts by the government to replace the existing tried and tested system with a new untested alternative called UNIPASS.
“Ghana seems to be rushing into something serious and complex without enough contemplation and preparation. We should be careful throwing out the hard work of many governments, starting in earnest from the establishment of the GCNet and West Blue systems, which had issues but which have also seen a lot of improvement over time,” the policy think-tank said.
IMANI made these observations in a paper reviewing the Trade Facilitation Agreement Between the Government of Ghana and Ghana Link Network Services Limited for the Provision of a Fully Integrated Trade Facilitation and Customs Management System.
IMANI observed that the contract covering the takeover of single window operations at the port by Ghana Link and its overseas partner, CUPIA Korea, is quite simplistic and shallow.
“The present arrangement looks like the government is handing over the contract ‘on a silver platter’ at no evident cost to the contractor herein, and then also grants them generous terms and wide latitude to operate without proving either their capability or producing proof upfront of what they bring in terms of investment and other resources. This will no doubt attract suspicions of undue influence,” IMANI noted.
The Ministry of Trade awarded a 10-year third single window contract to Ghana Link Network Services Limited and its overseas partner, CUPIA Korea Customs Service. The sole-sourced contract was signed on March 29, 2018 and subsequently published on the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) website. According to IMANI, the UNIPASS contract, despite its brevity, still gives much space to the rights of Ghana Link Limited and the responsibilities of the Ghana Government and penalties attendant to default on the part of Ghana Government.
However, “not sufficient space is allotted to the responsibilities of the contractor (Ghana Link) and the penalties for their failure,” it said.
IMANI pointed out that there is no liability assumed by Ghana Link for all the assets and operations it has been given, adding “at a minimum, one would expect a certain minimum investment by the contractor and a performance bond or something similar to assure Government of Ghana that it is covered and would not be the loser if things go wrong.”
“If the Ghana Government sought independent objective legal advice on this, it is likely they would be advised to allow UNIPASS to make a competitive bid against the existing system and prove why they must take over the system, plus the rewards of such a move,” the think-tank stated.