Stakeholders want UNIPASS/ICUMS suspended… as they decry its “not working”
Adnan Adams Mohammed
Stakeholders using the UNIPASS, now Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS), want it to be suspended due to its unbearable hitches and revenue losses.
Leadership of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) says, contrary to suggestions by government that all is well with the introduction of UNIPASS, is creating lots of unbearable problems for clearing agents and importers since its deployment at Takoradi Port.
Prior to its introduction, many Ghanaians, including IMANI Africa, had questioned why Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo-Maafo instructed importers to start working with UNIPASS at a time the company has demonstrated significant technological challenges that could affect its work and completely disrupt the trade facilitation structure and disrupt revenue generation.
“The rollout of UNIPASS/ICUMS at the Takoradi port is creating a lot of unbearable problems for clearing agents and importers”, President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), Edward Akrong said in interview, last week.
However, IMANI Africa has urged President Nana Akufo-Addo to temporarily suspend the operations of UNI-PASS and allow GCNET and West Blue to operate for the remainder of the year.
The policy think tank has also advised the President to conduct an independent review of the UNI-PASS system.
At the same time, it wants the ministries of trade and finance to share revenue projections from implementing UNI-PASS with Ghanaians.
In a statement to the President titled: ‘Plugging huge revenue gaps occasioned by COVID-19: GCNET and West Blue remain your best port revenue assurers’, IMANI said its argument was premised on recent publications by some media houses.
Currently the supposed superior UNIPASS/ ICUMS is unable to deliver the end to end package as envisaged as freight forwarders have been asked to go back to the use of the manual means of clearing goods.
Mr. Akrong, who was speaking on Citi TV’s Face to Face program on Tuesday evening said the operators of the UNIPASS/ICUMS system are now mixing manual with electronics to release goods at the Takoradi ports, resulting in delays in clearing goods.
He said the shipping lines also resorted to the manual release of goods because of the problems with the UNIPASS/ICUMS system.
Mr. Akrong said the chaotic situation that UNIPASS/ICUMS system has created at the port does not auger well for clearing agents and the country as a whole. He, therefore, called on President Nana Akufo-Addo to intervene in the situation by halting the failing UNIPASS/ICUMS system to save the nation and importers from losing revenue.
Mr. Akrong said: “Our members cannot use the UNIPASS/ICUMS system because the system is problematic. Some importers have still not been able to clear their goods since April 9, 2020. We are losing a lot of revenue as a result of the failing system.”
Given the problems with the UNIPASS/ICUMS system, he said currently most clearing agents have gone back to use the GCNet/West blue system, adding that “about 80 percent of the clearance is being done through the GCNET and West Blue systems now”.
Mr. Akrong bemoaned the situation where goods for export are seized at the borders because the exporter did no use the failing UNIPASS/ICUMS system.
He cited an incident that happened recently at the Paga border, where a customs officer prevented a good from leaving the country because the exporter used the GCNet, West blue systems.
In March 2018, Ghana Link Network Services Limited, in collaboration with Customs UNI-PASS International Agency (CUPIA) of Korea Customs Services, were through sole-sourcing contracted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to introduce UNI-PASS system at Ghana’s ports for ten years at a cost of US$40m.
In the contract, the government would have to cough out an amount of $93 million that would be paid to Ghana Link and its overseas partner CUPIA Korea owning UNIPASS if the company is allowed to start operating Ghana’s National Single Window platform and asked to stop in the first year in the event of any anomaly whatsoever detected.
Despite this termination clause, caution has been thrown to the wind in ensuring that before Ghana Link and UNIPASS are allowed to start work, all uncertainties would have been cleared.