Review port paperless systems to make it more efficient

BY: Graphic Business
Tema Port
Tema Port

The introduction of the paperless initiative in September 2017 at the country’s seaports has brought about a high level of efficiency in port operations which used to be fraught with paperwork and bureaucratic processes.

The long room, which used to be an area for payment of customs duty, has been scrapped with the coming into force of the paperless system.

Importers in the country have acknowledged that the initiative has helped them to receive customs classification valuation reports (CCVR) within 24 hours compared to previously when the same process took three days.

The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), for instance, has scored the initiative 65 per cent for easing business transactions at the ports. It maintained that the system could have performed better than it had presently done if the compliance stage of the clearance process had been abolished when the system was initiated in September last year.

In relation to revenue mobilisation, the initiative has yielded positive results since its inception because the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has improved on its revenue for imports.

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Analysis of the Monthly Import Performance of the Customs Division of the GRA between 2015 and mid-year 2018, showed that the amount of revenue realised from imports has been increasing year on year.

The growth in revenue realised from imports over the period could also largely be attributed to the strengthening of the Single Window System in 2015, when WestBlue Consulting was brought on board to complement the efforts of GCNet, and the implementation of the paperless initiative.

Total import revenue realised for half year 2015 was GHȼ3.6 billion. This, however, increased to GHȼ 4.3 billion by June 2016.

The figure further increased from GHȼ 4.3 billion in June 2016 to GHȼ 5.3 billion in June 2017. For the first half of this year, about GHȼ5.8 billion was collected for the state from importers.

Aside from the gains in imports, the Commissioner General of the GRA, Mr Emmanuel Kofi Nti, at a press conference announced that as of the end of August this year, the GRA had collected GH¢22.66 billion of its annual target of GH¢38.9 billion, leaving a revenue shortfall of 7.4 per cent.

The figure collected showed a negative deviation of GH¢ 1.7 billion representing an 18.4 per cent decline while that for Domestic Tax Revenue Department (DTRD) had an overall negative deviation of GH¢83.79 million, representing 0.59 per cent.

But a year into the paperless initiative, the GRAPHIC BUSINESS believes that undertaking impact assessment of the system at this time is apt for it to be scaled up to include goods meant for export.

Again, scaling up the paperless initiative to include other points of entry and exit is crucial to reverse the negative picture in the months ahead as far as the country’s revenue mobilisation is concerned.

To sustain the policy and further enhance trade facilitation, the GRAPHIC BUSINESS calls on all the implementing agencies to deepen stakeholder consultations on the future of the initiative.

There is also the need to augment the numerical strength of other agencies at the ports to complement that of Customs.

At a time when the country is in dire need of funds to implement very crucial projects and initiatives, we believe that there should be no stone unturned in trying to rake in more revenue from the ports and, therefore, the challenges associated with the paperless clearance process should receive serious and immediate attention from the government. We also hope for more reforms at the ports to rake in more revenue.