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15.02.2006 Business & Finance

Customs catches cold over parallel force

By GNA

Accra, Feb 15, GNA - The staff of the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) are locked up in an argument over the fate of the 3,200 workforce, who say they feel threatened by the training of a parallel force to take over the preventive aspect of the operations of the Service.

They said even though the Government had the mandate to do its own thing, input should have been sought from CEPS.

The argument broke out at the extraordinary national delegate's conference of the Junior and Senior Staff of CEPS when Mr Chris Larweh, Chairman of the Senior Staff Association (SSA), said the Government was not being fair to the Service.

This was after Major-General Richardson Baiden, Commissioner of the CEPS, had said that the Government was not out to liquidate CEPS operations and give it to the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS).

"If government did not have anything to hide on the issue, "then they should come out clean on the matter and bring us all to one peaceful end", he said.

The Meeting was in respect of the intended take-over of the preventive functions of CEPS by the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) in Accra.

The Minister of The Interior, Paapa Owusu-Ankomah on Tuesday said the Government's action was to empower the Ghana Immigration Service in a gradual manner to maximise deterrence and interdictions of undesirable persons, who would attempt to enter Ghana.

Mr Larweh said the Preventive Service alone employed 70 per cent of the total staff strength, "and until now Cabinet has not communicated to us what will happen to the 2,240 persons.

"For us in the Association, since Cabinet has not indicated whether they would be absorbing us into the Immigration Service, the only alternative is that we may be retrenched."

Mr Larweh said they understood the position of the Commissioner since his office was a political one and knew that he was not going to do anything to jeopardise his position.

"We know that currently, the Immigration Service has started recruiting people in batches of 400 in weapon training to take over border control operations across the country. We know a lot of things are going on and can conveniently say that Government is taking over our preventive operations to the Ghana Immigration Service."

He explained that the Association had reliable information from a fact-finding team it (Government) sent to the borders that border patrols was at its lowest ebb, but the Government decided to hand over the job to Immigration without finding out the reasons for the poor performance either from the current Management or the rank and file.

Mr Larweh said the current situation was worrying the workers of the Service.

He noted that over the last 20 years, CEPS had patrolled the boarders of the country against smugglers, nation wreckers and helped in safeguarding the security of the nation and deserved better treatment. He said CEPS generated 60 per cent of total national revenue - 500 billion in 1986 rising to 14 trillion last year.

Mr Ben Nyabe, Chairman of the Junior Staff Association, said the Service received the highest of all the criticisms from the public and other institutions for being inhuman, "but we hope that with support and injection of equipment, as has been done for the Police Service, we would rise up to a higher point even beyond the levels of revenue collection and overall performance in our operations".

He said the former Border Guard Unit under the Ministry of The Interior had 8,000 members, but the CEPS had managed with only 3,200. CEPS was created in 1986 under PNDCL 144, after the Government started a programme aimed at restructuring and rationalising major revenue collecting agencies. The role of the then Department of Customs and Excise, responsible for indirect tax collection was enhanced and given the new name to operate on a paramilitary and quasi-self-accounting status.

Major-General Baiden told the GNA the workers had no cause to fear of job loss since a recent National Security Council Meeting chaired by President John Agyekum Kufuor did not mention anything of the sort. "There is no truth in the information that anyone in CEPS would lose his or her job. CEPS will remain as it is," adding: "The fact that the Immigration Service is recruiting new staff does not mean they are taking over our job."

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