Custom House agents bemoan high business cost at the ports
The Association of Customs House Agents Ghana (ACHAG) has indicated that the high cost of doing business at Ghana’s ports and borders was a major source of worry to the industry players.
ACHAG questioned the presence of what they termed as some nuisance taxes at the ports and called on the government to eliminate them.
For example, they questioned why the government was holding on to the COVID-19 health recovery levy and Ministry of Health Disinfection Fee as well as the Network Charge of 0.04 percent on free on board (FOB) and its related VAT charges.
The outgoing president of ACHAG, Yaw Kyei who stated this on Friday, February 9, 2024 during the third annual general meeting of ACHAG held in Tema also bemoaned the illegitimate and indiscriminate charges by some service providers, cumbersome clearance procedures and delays in the processing of cargo documents, among others, they say contributes to the high cost of doing business at the ports.
The AGM held on the theme, 'Doing business at the port in the face of current economic challenges,' will also see the election of new executives to steer the affairs of ACHAG.
Mr Kyei said in 2021 and 2022, Customs realized GH¢16,086,523,592.52 and GH¢22,262,971,531.28 respectively to the national budget however, last year, the Tema Collection of Customs despite imports being characterised by lower imports volumes, was short of attaining the set GH¢25.6 billion revenue target by GH¢1.2 billion.
These figures, he said, pointed to pressure on the ports to deliver set targets and have led to in some cases, increasing taxes to achieve targets as a convenient way out but has incidentally contributed to high cost of doing business at the ports.
Mr Kyei noted that although the state derives its revenue at the port from duties, taxes, fees and levies, the many other government and quasi-government bodies lined up at the ports in the name of providing services have added up to the cost of doing business.
He noted that the high cost of doing business at the ports have contributed to high inflation, smuggling, corruption, reduction in purchasing power of importers and exporters, diversion of imports through neighbouring countries on a financially competitive basis, under-invoicing, mis-description, among other malpractices.
While commending efforts by the government to streamline clearance procedures via the introduction of the Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS) since June 2020, he said the system has not attained the efficiency level anticipated by the industry players and advocated for improvements in the system.
He, therefore, called on stakeholders to do more to curb the situation.
Investment and Technology
Deputy Minister of Transport, Hassan Tampuli who acknowledged some of the challenges enumerated by ACHAG said a Committee has been constituted under the Economic Management Team tasked with the responsibility to make recommendations on how to reduce cost of doing business at the Ports.
This, he explained goes to demonstrate the commitment of this Government to creating the enabling environment for port business to thrive as well as solidify Government’s reputation as a listening government, having listened to concerns of various stakeholders in the Ports value chain such, ACHAG, Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), Ghana Union of Traders' Associations (GUTA) among others.
Mr Tampuli said while the government and the GPHA have been investing in infrastructure at the port, evidence has shown that investments in port infrastructure should be complemented by measures on the operational side to achieve the desired objectives.
He said it was for that reason that the government was also investing in cutting edge technology to improve efficiency and turnaround time at Ghana’s ports. One of such government initiatives, he said, was the establishment of the paperless port system which has become a reality with the full implementation of the digitalized business and commerce platforms.
A Deputy Marketing and Corporate Affairs Manager at the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) Nana Esi Söderberg. on behalf of the Director General of GPHA, Michael Luguje said the Port Authority was actively committed to working collaboratively with stakeholders to simplify and streamline port processes including reducing bureaucratic hurdles, optimising workflows, creating transparent processes, providing competitive rates and actively showing the willingness to continually improve towards facilitating smoother business operations at the ports.
Deputy Director General of the Ghana Shippers' Authority (GSA), Sylvia Asana Owu, who chaired the function, stressed the need for collaboration among all stakeholders to find workable solutions to the challenges to ensure smooth business through the ports