The project to reduce turnaround time, corruption and bureaucracy at the ports is expected to be put to test with the commencement of the much-awaited paperless operations at the Tema Port last Friday.
The systems of the Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet), the e-Solutions provider for the government which developed and deployed the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) for the clearing of goods at the ports, and West Blue Consulting have been deployed to pave way for the paperless clearing system across all customs entry points in the country.
To that end, all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) that issue permits and/or exemptions before goods are imported into the country have been linked onto the new platform for the permits and exemptions to be issued electronically.
Freight forwarders and other actors in the Customs clearing process have also been migrated onto the web-based platform, the Ghana Integrated Cargo Clearance System (GICCS).
The paperless port operation became necessary because the clearing system introduced in 2004 to make Customs clearing seamless and paperless had been under-utilised by stakeholders and end-users.
In spite of the good intentions of the government, this new policy has, since it was announced, received some backlash, with some actors within the ports raising varied concerns over the impact of the new system on their work.
The Daily Graphic is not surprised at the agitation and protests against the new move, since many government initiatives meant to correct rotten systems have been met with the same reception.
As a paper which has followed with keen interest various developments within the ports system, we find the government’s insistence on going ahead with the new system most commendable and, therefore, urge all to play their roles to ensure that the processes work for our own good.
What we should all understand is that the paperless clearing system means that all the activities involved in the valuation, classification of imports, issuance of permits, settlement of cash and all others relating to the clearing process will be web-based to facilitate a seamless system without recourse to much paperwork.
One other significance of the paperless system is that it will cut out human interference, which brings about inefficiency and is prone to malfeasance, a practice which has been going on at the ports for decades and denying the state a lot of revenue.
There is nothing more refreshing than an electronic-based system with an audit trail that will track transactions in the system and ensure that very little or nothing slips by the way.
Apart from that, doing business at the ports is saddled with a lot of corrupt practices because as an importer tries to break through the bureaucracy, the temptation to pay bribe and cut corners through various means is always high.
With this new system, all these stressful incidents are expected to be eradicated for the benefit of stakeholders.
To this end, we urge the government, key actors such as the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, the GCNet, West Blue and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to ensure that the fears of the other stakeholders are allayed by providing efficient and reliable services by way of uninterrupted supply of power and the absence of system breakdowns which many IT systems have suffered from.