Customs To Set Up Electronic Platform
5/15/2012 10:42:55 PM -
Major Carl Modey - CEPS Commissioner The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) is to set up an electronic platform on which all stages of documentation of importers and exporters will be made available.
The platform which will be based on the Customs Management System (CMS) can be accessible via the Internet by stakeholders of Customs, particularly the banks which will be issued with specific passwords to enable them to verify the documents presented to them by importers and exporters.
The Deputy Commissioner of the Customs Division of the GRA In-Charge of Operations, Mr Samuel Akwasi Yankyera, announced this at a forum in Accra over the weekend.
He asked the banks to collectively request Customs to make available the electronic platform to enable them to facilitate proper due diligence on the documents presented to them by the importers and exporters.
The forum was organised by the Standard Chartered Bank, Ghana, (SCB) and was meant to, among other things, expose clients of the bank to the various procedures and the policies of Customs and the Bank of Ghana on trade finance.
It was also meant to create the opportunity for traders and business people who deal with the bank to ask for in-depth clarifications on issues bothering them when it comes to trade finance.
Mr Yankyera said the Customs Division had refused to work on hardcopy documents submitted to it for the clearance and export of goods because of issues of forgery and other fraudulent practices which go to deny the state several millions of cedis in revenue.
“Documents such as bills of lading, among others, issued by the shipping lines can be forged and equally manipulated and as a result they are submitted electronically to Customs from source so that the documents can be easily verified and authenticated,” he said.
This way, he said, it affords Customs the opportunity to narrow down on the source and also makes auditing easier.
He said Customs was aware of some importers who moved from bank to bank with the same set of documents for the payment of the same consignments.
Mr Yankyera admitted that some banks which tried to do due diligence to confirm the authenticity of hard copies of shipping documents submitted to them for the purpose of transfer of foreign exchange tended to be accused of being “too difficult” and in the process, they lose some of their customer base to other banks which do not bother to do same.”
He said much as the situation may be disturbing, it was still in the interest of the banks and that of the state to ensure that authentic and thorough investigations were done.
Mr Yankyera said in the absence of the electronic platform and in the quest of the banks to address abuses arising out of the issues of documentation, hard copies of documents presented to them should be endorsed by assigned senior customs officers after verification of particulars and values in Customs Management System as an interim measure.
The Director and Head of Transaction Banking, SCB West Africa, Mr Victor Yaw Asante, explained to the Daily Graphic after the forum that the bank decided to put together the players in the industry to understand the processes and policies as far as trade finance was concerned.
“We brought in the Bank of Ghana which is the policy owner and the Customs Division which is the implementer of the policies at the ports and our customers to know how they can all help facilitate trade payments and correct some gray areas around the policies, procedures and documentation generally,” he added.