Despite the decision to sever its relations with existing vendors providing customs processing and valuation services at the ports, the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has issued a new directive asking some of them to continue providing their services until June 1.
This means that the processing of bills of entry (BOEs)—that is, the general information on imported cargo based on which Customs assigns the total value and its corresponding duty payable—will be handled by two separate systems up to mid-year.
A letter from the GRA, signed by its Commissioner-General, Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, indicated: “Effective 28th April 2020 and until 31st of May 2020, all transactions in respect of import/export manifest can be processed through either Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS) or Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) for the Tema Port as well as all other entry points.
For the avoidance of doubt, with effect from 1st June 2020, all new transactions without exception in respect of import and export shall only be processed through the ICUMS.”
It added: “All existing transactions commencing prior to the 31st of May 2020 for which processing have not been completed in the GCMS (before or after payment of duty) shall be reprocessed through the ICUMS.”
A source working with one of the outgoing vendors confirmed to Business24 that despite the full deployment of the ICUMS, also known as UNIPASS, their systems were still active.
“Our systems are active; all existing declarations are still being processed by us, but new declarations are unable to go through our systems not because we don’t want to, but because government says they should not go through our systems,” the source said.
Reacting to a recent publication that the vendors have shut down their systems, the source indicated: “No, we haven’t shut down. Government has issued a directive that new declarations should not pass through our system but through the new system [ICUMS]. So that is what is happening, but we have not shut down.”
One of the conditions precedent in the contract for the ICUMS is that before Customs’ official deployment of the system, the existing operators, GCNet and WestBlue, had to hand over their systems to the Ministry of Trade. However, the two entities declined to hand over their “intellectual property” to the government.
IMANI’s strong criticism
Franklin Cudjoe, head of policy think-tank IMANI Africa, has warned that the decision of the government to terminate the contract of the current vendors is ill-timed, considering the disruptions it could generate amid the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy.
In a petition to President Nana Akufo-Addo last week, titled “Plugging huge revenue gaps occasioned by Covid-19: GCNET and West Blue remain your best port revenue assurers”, he called for the suspension of the ICUMS/UNIPASS system.
“Covid-19 has erased almost 6 percent of the country’s expected end-year growth of 7.5 percent, leaving in its trail huge gaps in our finances. Indeed, we are in the worst of times, in choppy waters. Let us not rock the boat any further,” he said.