85% Success Achieved So Far Under New Paperless Regime
A year after the introduction and implementation of the paperless port system, the Association of Customs House Agents Ghana (ACHAG) has rated the system at 85%, and described it as excellent and efficient.
According to Mr Yaw Kyei, President of the association, whose mandate is to preside over the freight forwarding industry in the country, said the system had made the clearing of goods at the ports easy and faster, as one can transact business from the comfort of his/her home or office.
It has also helped reduce the cost incurred on the clearing of goods, he added.
He was speaking at a forum organised by Imani Africa on the theme: “Finding the Balance Between Governments Trade Facilitation Goals and Revenue Mobilisation.”
Mr Kyei made the comments following complaints from some importers and clearing agents who have opined that the system is not completely paperless, as some officers at the port still ask for some papers in order to complete a clearing.
The critics also opined that the objectives set out by the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, prior to the implementation of the system, have not been met, hence, cannot score the system high.
It would be recalled that the Vice President, prior to the implementation of the system, indicated that the paperless port system would enable individuals and clearing agents clear their goods within four hours.
An inspection team, which consisted of sixteen groups, will be reduced to three, while a compliance system would be abolished, all in a bid to make clearing easier and faster.
But, Mr Kyei indicated that though the objectives have not been met yet, the system has eased some of the processes that one had to go through previously.
He said that before the paperless system, goods were being cleared in a period of one week, but one can now clear goods in a day, a system far better than the former.
“There is also prompt and abrupt notification by way of text messages and emails about the state of customers' goods at the port.”
He added that the system also enables a customer to verify the amount to be paid for a particular product before going to the port to clear the goods.
“This has enabled the customer to cut down on cost, as people were being cheated in the past due to the activities of middle men”
“In the past, people ended up paying double or more than what they were supposed to pay, because they dealt with middlemen who always inflated prices, but now that you get a prompt notification on your phone, you know the exact amount you are supposed to pay,” he observed.
Aside that, payments can also be done from the comfort of one's office without going to the port personally.
He, however, agreed that there were some human factors which distract and delay the process sometimes, hence, the authorities should up their game and make the system better.
But, Mr Kwabena Ofosu-Appiah, President, Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, indicated that the limitations in the system could be avoided if government ministries, agencies and departments, which operate in the shipping sector, are brought under one umbrella.
He opined that because these ministries and agencies all make profit from port activities and wouldn't want to be tagged as not providing solutions to the numerous problems faced with the port, they all try to initiate their own solutions to be seen as relevant.
“This creates a lot of bottlenecks at the end of the day,” he observed.
He, therefore, advised that those ministries and agencies be brought under one umbrella, and solutions formulated for them to roll out.
Mr Bismark Kissi, Chief Revenue Officer of the Ghana Revenue Authority, stated that in the absence of an umbrella body to oversee the ministries and departments within the shipping sector, the GRA would ensure that senior officers, who still demand papers and make the paperless system tedious, would be dealt with.
He also opined that change is not easy, hence, people should bear with them when it comes to the limitations the system poses.