Ghana's single window project was initiated in 2002 as part of reforms to facilitate trade and improve port operations.
It was part of the switch over from predestination inspection of transshipment to destination inspection, where authorities in the importing country had the onus to examine, value and impose duties on consignments.
The overarching reason, however, was to ensure that port operations were efficient and loopholes plugged to ensure maximum revenue mobilisation.
The Ghana Community Network Services (GCNet), therefore, came into being under a public/private partnership (PPP) arrangement to provide information technology support for the government through the then Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) to facilitate the electronic clearing of goods and consignments at the country’s ports.
The GCNet, which started around 2004, digitised customs information (Customs Management Information System) and developed the feeder platform at its end (TradeNet) which permits the logistics community to exchange trade-related documentation electronically with all agencies involved in trade-related processes.
The TradeNet enables all permit-providing government agencies to issue their permits electronically and thereby cut the process of being physically present to manually apply for permits.
This system came to replace the chaos in the Long Room at the Tema Port where about 14 processes had to be completed.
Then enter West Blue Consulting in 2015, taking over the functions of the destination inspection companies which issued valuation reports on behalf of Customs.
Although the system has had a long history, it was the Nana Akufo-Addo government which revived the impetus to migrate the process to become paperless. Championed by the Vice-President, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, the system went live on September 1, 2017, with a promise to minimise clearing time to four hours, provided all documents are intact and genuine.
The Vice-President, speaking at the International Single Window Conference in Accra last Tuesday, revealed that the paperless system was deployed without the government incurring any cost, thanks to the strong foundation the GCNet, West Blue Consulting and other stakeholders had laid.
The Daily Graphic has, however, learnt that the four-hour threshold for clearing consignments is still a challenge to meet due to several factors, including the tendency among officers to artificially create a stalemate, bringing in human intervention on which they will capitalise and indulge in some malfeasance.
On the other hand, some importers and clearing agents continue to tender fake documents with falsified values meant to reduce their tax liabilities at the port. Such practices only inhibit the free flow of the new system, which is being deployed across the globe, including many African countries.
We urge the Ghana Revenue Authority, the GPHA and all stakeholders to ensure strict compliance with the system to ensure its effectiveness, without leaving room for lax or failure.