The state has recovered GH¢1.5 billion from importers and clearing agents who defrauded it by fictitiously altering the original payment receipts of import duty and to pay lesser amounts.
Confirming the payments to the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, a Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr Johnny Osei Kofi, said some of the agents who had expressed concern regarding their linkage to the questionable activity, were going through legal processes to seek redress and possible payback of money owed the state.
The chairman of a task force set up by President John Mahama to recover money lost to the state, Nii Adote Din Barima I, who confirmed the amount retrieved in an interview, said the figure included money recovered from bonded warehouses.
Scores of clearing agents and their colleague importers were found out by the task force to have engaged in various forms of fraud that caused the nation to lose annual revenue in the region of about GH¢36 billion.
The task force, known as the Special Operations Unit (SOU), has currently been suspended. Its mandate was to retrieve money from importers who duped the state through various criminal activities.
According to Mr Osei Kofi, although the task force had been suspended, work was still going on to retrieve money owed the state. He said the SOU would be restored with a much broader mandate to continue its work.
The clearing agents who have been implicated were found to have either failed to pay port permits or abused the system. Port permit is a special dispensation established for state agencies to enable them to expedite the clearance of goods from the port even before effecting payment.
The Daily Graphic, however, gathered that after clearing the goods, some clearing agents failed to complete the necessary documentation for payments to be effected.
Another source of revenue leakage has been identified as involving truckloads of imported goods that enter the country through the landed borders without paying taxes or duties on the goods. It is estimated that more than 50 articulated trucks enter Ghana through various entry points weekly with little or no taxes paid on those goods.
Areas of leakage
Falsification of invoices and other documents by the Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) and the use of wrong custom procedure codes also constituted one of the major sources of revenue leakage.
Goods fraudulently removed from bonded warehouses without appropriate duties and taxes have been identified as another major source of revenue loss to the state.
The number of warehouses found to be engaged in this activity is more than 50 and the warehouses are said to be poorly supervised by customs officials. Moreover, it was discovered that another huge source of revenue leakage had to do with taxpayers and exporters who were sometimes fraudulently paid huge refunds and whose operations never got audited.
Officials from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service have been brought on board to begin the prosecution of clearing agents caught in fraudulent acts.
On September 4, 2015, the Daily Graphic published a story of how the state was losing revenue as a result of dubious acts that were being perpetrated by clearing agents at the Tema Port by means of tampering with the final customs verification report (FCVR) numbers assigned their containers.
Investigations are currently going on to expose such port clearing agencies in the media for further punitive actions to be taken against them.