23.10.2004 Regional News

CEPS senior staff holds conference at Abokobi

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Abokobi, Oct 23, GNA - Mr Kwaku Agyemang Manu, Deputy Finance Minister, at the weekend said Ghana's Ports and Stations of the Customs Excise, and Preventive Service (CEPS), would be fully hooked onto the Ghana Customs Management of System (GCMS) within the next 12 months. He however noted that poor infrastructure remained a challenge to the automation programme, which called for a huge capital investment and support from both the Government and the Ghana Community Network (GCNet).

Mr Agyemang Manu was speaking the opening of the 14 Annual Delegates Conference of the Senior Staff Association of the Customs Excise, and Preventive Service (SSCEPS) at Abokobi, in the Greater Accra Region. The conference is on the theme "Automation and Revenue Mobilisation: Prospects and Challenges."

Mr Agyemang Manu said: "Automation, which is one of the modernisation interventions has the potential of giving us about 90 per cent of our potential revenue.

"As a result of this, Government will spare no effort in ensuring that the Automation programme is carried to its logical conclusion so that our Ports and Stations will be hooked to the GCMS in the next 12 months."

Mr Agyemang Manu said it was the hope of the Government that all customs officers embraced the changes that would be brought about by the Automation to help move Ghana forward.

The Commissioner for CEPS, Brigadier General Richardson Baiden, said the Service was determined to maintain the momentum of modernising its operations through the Ghana Community Networks (GCNet/GCMS) after one year of its introduction.

He said the Aflao station was currently on-line while the Elubo station would also be on-line soon as the communication problem was resolved. Brigadier General Baiden, however, said the introduction of electronic trade practices and other state of the art products must be supported by the necessary legislature, saying, that was one of the most significant challenges of the automation efforts.

The CEPS Commissioner said despite the modest achievements and improvements brought about by the GCNet/GCMS, dubious and unethical practices of some officials of the Service threatened revenue collection and national security.

He said the monitoring activities of the Post Events Unit (PEU) of the Service had revealed that a lot of declarations sent through the system were left hanging.

A lot of importers and clearing agents were able to take delivery of their goods without any examination by customs officers permanently present at the port gates.

Brigadier General Baiden said in order to conceal their transactions, officers made their remarks on the hard copies instead of using the electronic system, adding that, a number of clearing agents questioned by the PEU admitted that such goods were indeed cleared on hard copies. He directed the officers to use the system to make whatever remarks they needed to make on a particular consignment.

Brigadier General Baiden said the transit regimen had become the most fraudulent in the Service with resultant problems like escorts abandoning goods with the active connivance of the importer or transitor, false declaration, which could not be traced and the lack of commitment on the part of CEPS officers.

The CEPS Director said the Management would strengthen the PEU to intensify its monitoring functions to plug all loopholes in the system. He appealed to the Destination Inspection Companies to work closely with CEPS in fighting some of the negative practices that undermined revenue maximization.

Mr Harry Owusu, Executive Secretary of the Revenue Agencies Governing Board, on behalf of the Chairman, urged customs officers to launch a renewal process to build new competencies, adopt geographic information and the geographic positioning system to facilitate the tracking of goods across borders.

He underlined consensus building within the rank and file of the Service as well as a shared vision between policy formulators and implementers.

"The actions of tax collectors should not only be professional but, must be based on dedication and excellence," Mr Owusu said. Mr Christopher Larweh, National Chairman of the SSACEPS, said the Service collected 7.2 trillion cedis last year and had already crossed the six trillion, this year.

Mr Sam Aggudey, Assistant Commissioner of CEPS, Jamestown Collection, which hosted the conference said the effective combination of warehousing, excise activities by local manufacturers and the monitoring of free zones operation made the James Town Collection the second largest after the Tema Collection point in revenue mobilisation. Nii Samuel Adjetey Mohenu, Chief of Abokobi, called for God's blessing and guidance in the deliberations of the conference.

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