The interdiction of 218 senior and junior officers of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) who work at the Tema Port is hampering operations at the Technical Services Bureau (TSB) of the authority.
Although the interdicted officers are said to have been replaced at the TSB and other critical operational areas, the replacements are said to lack capacity, as most of them are now learning on the job.
This has led to delays in the acquisition of Customs classification and valuation reports (CCVRs) on imports by agents and importers.
It now takes agents and importers two weeks to acquire CCVRs, which were previously issued in 48 hours.
The situation is said to be impacting negatively on the activities of agents and importers, leading to the payment of huge demurrage by shipping lines.
To register their frustration, members of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), the Chamber of Freight and Trade (CFT) and the Concerned Freight Forwarders Association (CFFA) yesterday staged a demonstration against Customs and the government at the documentation processing centre, popularly referred to as the “Long Room”, at the Tema Port.
The demonstration was also meant to back their demand for the issues at the TSB to be resolved.
The group also called for the suspension of the paperless processes that make for import clearance documentation to be electronically processed, as against the previous arrangement where importers and agents physically interacted with Customs officials during the process.
Amid singing and chanting, the demonstrators, who wore red armbands, said whereas they were not against what Customs described as staff rationalisation, there was the need for the CCVRs backlog to be cleared to enable importers to process their imports.
“The extension of the approval time for CCVR acquisition, apart from increasing importer cost, also defeats the efficiency goal we want to attain as a country,” the acting Executive Secretary of the GIFF, Mr Eddy Akrong, told the Daily Graphic.
“What we are saying is that as you do your staff rationalisation, put in measures that will not create challenges for the trading public,” he added.
The President of GIFF, Mr Kwabena Ofosu Appiah, claimed that the institute had engaged the top hierarchy of Customs, the ministries of Trade and Finance, as well as the Vice-President, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, and yet the challenge regarding CCVR acquisition persisted.
Some members of the group also wanted the implementation of the paperless process of processing declarations, payments, examination of imports and clearing of cargo to be immediately suspended.
The piloting of the processes was to have started yesterday at the port but the demonstrators said they were not aware of that.
The acting Chairman of the Concerned Freight Forwarders Association, Oheneba Kwasi Afawuah, for his part, said sensitisation on the project had been poor.