Accra, Jan. 26, GNA - Ghana joined the World Customs Organisation (WCO) on Wednesday to celebrate International Customs Day, with a renewed commitment to fight customs and commercial fraud. Acting Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, in a keynote speech to mark the Day, asked the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) to adopt pragmatic measures to curtail all forms of commercial and customs malpractices, saying such acts bled the nation.
Such malpractices included unfair competition, smuggling of goods through under-invoicing, misclassification and wrong description, and concealment of prohibited goods.
Mr Kwaku Agyemang Manu, Deputy Minister of Finance in-charge of Revenues, read Mr Osafo-Maafo's speech at the celebration held on the theme: "Customs and Commercial Fraud".
It is the third time that the CEPS is celebrating the event. Mr. Osafo-Maofo said Customs administrations in many countries and regions continued to contend with commercial fraud, perpetrated in a variety of ways and were becoming increasingly sophisticated. An estimated revenue loss is about 50 billion dollars bi-annually, according to Oxfam figures.
The Acting Finance Minister said money laundering and funding of terrorism, in addition to revenue and fiscal evasion were suspected to be linked to customs fraud.
He added that it was extremely important that Customs administrations became aware of the implications of commercial fraud and took decisive measure to prevent it.
Challenges of lack of awareness and the sharing of best practices information and general knowledge, limitations in the exchange of information between counterpart administrations and skills had become a hindering factor for effective enforcement actions against commercial fraud.
Mr. Osafo-Maafo said the computerisation of clearance procedures through the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) and the Ghana Community Network (GCNET) were doing well.
He, however, urged the CEPS to extend its ratified cooperation under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Customs Service of La C=F4te d'Ivoire to other neighbouring countries, the revenue agencies and the business community.
Mr Kwamena Bartels, Acting Minister of Private Sector Development, re-stated concerns of private businessmen on the tax structure on tariffs on raw materials, dumping of shoddy goods and cumbersome clearance procedures at the ports.
Mr Bartels suggested that CEPS provided quality assistance and public education, a standing committee that included the business sector to discuss fraud combating strategies and rigid law enforcement to fraud and other malpractices.
Brigadier-General Richardson Baiden, the CEPS Commissioner, said CEPS maintained its position as the foremost revenue agency. CEPS, he said, exceeded its revenue target last year and raked in 9.31 trillion cedis, adding that the Service had introduced the Vehicle Transit Stickers to enhance monitoring and tracking of transit goods. Prof. Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, Acting Minister for Ports and Harbours, who chaired the function, urged CEPS to create a good image for itself to attract the confidence of the Government and people.
Solidarity messages, read from the Ghana Shippers Council, Association of Ghana Industries, WCO, the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce, Institute of Freight Forwarders and the Customs Brokers Association of Ghana praised the efficiency of the CEPS for the use of the GCMS and the GCNet.
Certificates from the WCO were distributed to 11 personnel of the Service from the Tema, Aflao, Headquarters and the Kotoka International Airport Stations for the distinguished service. 26 Jan. 05