Uni-Pass Still In Comatose; Importers Stranded
The newly born UNIPASS which failed to take off on first day after Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Maafo's sweet talks is still on ICU since yesterday. For the second day running, importers were unable to process new declarations on imports.
The development was occasioned by the inability of the newly introduced Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS) to accept the import declarations which were previously run through the Ghana Customs Management System by the Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) and the Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PARRS) operated by West Blue Consulting.
As such, imports that were previously processed in the system prior to the April 28 deadline for GCNeT and West Blue to shut, were being released by the various terminals using a manual platform.
Checks at the dedicated banks at the port that received import revenue also revealed that no new payments were made on Tuesday and Wednesday.
This was because importers and agents were unable to undertake pre-arrival processes to enable them to apply for the customs classification valuation report that would allow for payments on valuations done on their consignments.
The ICUMS system was supposed to be fed into the information, communication and technology systems of the container terminals and that of the shipping lines to allow for easy processing of documentation.
As such, vessel manifest, the Daily Graphic understands, would be processed manually, temporarily, in line with a road map developed by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to allow for the continuation of business at the Tema Port.
The GRA had on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, issued a memo for Customs House Agents and declarants, giving an assurance that officials were engaging GCNet to restore its services to allow for the processing of declarations through the GCMS on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.
The authority had hoped that the outgoing vendors could have operated alongside the ICUMS until May 31, 2020, when they would be phased out when the new system became fully functional.
However, engagements with the outgoing vendors hit a snag as GCNet maintained that they were complying with the directive of the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, to cease the processing of new import declarations.
However, the government had given an assurance that it was working diligently to address the challenge at hand to ensure that the new system was functional in the ensuing days.
A Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr Kwaku Kwarteng, who was in Tema to engage the Ghana Link Network Services Limited, operators of the new ICUMS system, said the Commissioner-General of the GRA had been tasked to come up with a workaround modality to address the immediate challenges.
He told the Daily Graphic in Tema yesterday that the ICUMS, like any new system, was facing challenges, since it only commenced operations two days ago.
The ICUMS, the deputy minister insisted, is a system that would require that it was operated and improved upon the same way the existing systems of the outgoing vendors had challenges and were improved to the level they were presently.
He apologised to importers and agents for the inconveniences the arrangements with the new system had caused them.
“For us, we will wish to find a way to, and work around to continue to engage the outgoing vendors on addressing concerns of traders,” Mr Kwarteng said.
Freight forwarders’ concerned
The Chairman of the Technical Committee of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), Mr John Mantey, also told the Daily Graphic that the agents had expected the systems of the outgoing vendors to come on to allow for the processing of imports.
“For now, containers are being released on a manual basis and we are hearing government wants to use a manual process to pass declarations from end to end and our hope is that it will work and won’t go to waste trading time which would lead to additional cost for importers,” Mr Mantey said.