The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) has asked the government to audit the paperless system used in clearing goods at the ports.
The audit is needed to help enhance the performance of the system, improve efficiency and get it to deliver the intended results.
A former President of the association, Dr Tony Oteng-Gyasi, told the Graphic Business that the call for an audit had become necessary following the involvement of people in the operations of the system, leading to its inability to deliver.
Speaking on the frustrations of local manufacturing companies in the hands of fraudulent trade practices, Dr Oteng-Gyasi, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Tropical Cable and Conductor, noted that although the paperless system was envisaged to streamline operations and remove bottlenecks and human interference in the clearance of goods business, “it now looks like the paperless system is being badly undermined.
“It looks like there are forces; influential and a few bad lots in there are interfering with the system and I think that they must be so powerful and influential to be able to affect importation business this much,” he added.
Thanks to their involvement, he said people and institutions were now able to flood the domestic market with cheaply priced imports, resulting in the demise of local manufacturers.
According to him, once the importers were able to under-invoice, declare or mis-describe their goods, they were able to escape payment of actual duties, resulting in revenue loss to the state, as well as emboldened the importers to under-price their goods.
Dr Oteng-Gyasi was commenting on how trade malpractices, including under-invoicing, declaration and mis-description of imports had led to the demise of domestic manufacturing businesses.
While admitting that not all persons along the importation value chain were involved in the practice, he said the actions of “the few bad lots” were so profound that they were dictating the fortunes of local manufacturers, including those in the electrical cable and conductor business.
“The paperless system was supposed to bring efficiency in port operations by clearing and forwarding of goods. What it meant simply was that once you file your entry, it went through the system without someone having to chase it.
“However, when you have an illegality in your documentation such as mis-description, under-valuation or under-invoicing, then the system will hold your documents and that is when the importers will try and see a custom officer, negotiate and get their way out,” he said.
This hold-up of faulty documents resulted in some importers complaining of delays in the implementation of the paperless system.
“If there are delays, it is because you have submitted the wrong entries. With the new system, you don’t even know which customs officer is working on your documents and so if there is a problem, it is flagged and sent back. Sometimes, they do the correction with the right values but when the importers, who are used to getting away with little duties, see this, then they start agitations that the system is not working.
“But why is the system not working? I am one of the biggest importers; all my raw materials such as copper are imported but why am I not complaining?” he quizzed.
Dr Oteng-Gyasi said the association was prepared to present evidence of these malpractices to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the government for action.
He was hopeful that the government would take action to help create a level playing field for imports and locally manufactured goods to compete. — GB