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Hassan Tampuli (2nd from left), Deputy Minister of Transport, having an interaction with some leaders of the Association of Customs House Agents Ghana at the Annual General Meeting. With them are Stephen Adjokatcher (right), President of Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, and Yaw Kyei (left), Outgoing President, ACHAG . Picture: BENJAMIN XORNAM GLOVER
Hassan Tampuli (2nd from left), Deputy Minister of Transport, having an interaction with some leaders of the Association of Customs House Agents Ghana at the Annual General Meeting. With them are Stephen Adjokatcher (right), President of Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, and Yaw Kyei (left), Outgoing President, ACHAG . Picture: BENJAMIN XORNAM GLOVER

Customs house agents bemoan high taxes at ports

The Association of Customs House Agents Ghana (ACHAG) says the high cost of doing business at the country’s ports and borders has become a major source of worry to industry players. 

The association has questioned what it terms as “nuisance taxes” at the ports and called on the government to remove them.

For example, it sought to know why the government was holding on to the COVID-19 Health Recovery Levy and the Ministry of Health Disinfection Fee.

The outgoing President of ACHAG, Yaw Kyei, who raised the issues last Friday during the third annual general meeting of the association in Tema, also bemoaned the “illegitimate” and “indiscriminate charges” by some service providers at the port, the cumbersome clearance procedures and delays in the processing of cargo documents, among others, saying they contributed 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”, also saw the election of new executives to steer the affairs of the association.

Mr Kyei said in 2021 and 2022, the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority realised a little over GH¢16 billion and a little over GH¢22 billion respectively to the national budget.

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He said last year, the Tema Collection of Customs was short of attaining the GH¢25.6 billion revenue target by GH¢1.2 billion, with general imports characterised by lower volumes.

Figures

These figures, he said, pointed to pressure on the ports to deliver set targets, compelling them to increase charges to achieve targets in some cases as a convenient way out, adding that it incidentally contributed to high cost of doing business at the ports.

Mr Kyei noted that although the state derived its revenue at the ports 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 had added up to the cost of doing business.

He noted that the high cost of doing business at the ports had contributed to high inflation, smuggling, corruption, reduction in the purchasing power of importers and exporters, diversion of imports through neighbouring countries on a financially competitive basis, under-invoicing and misdescription, among other malpractices.

While commending efforts by the government to streamline clearance procedures through the introduction of the Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS) since June 2020, he said the system had not attained the efficiency level anticipated by the industry players, and advocated improvements in the system.

He called on stakeholders to do more to curb the situation. 

Investment, technology

A Deputy Minister of Transport, Hassan Tampuli, acknowledged some of the challenges enumerated by ACHAG and said a committee had been constituted under the Economic Management Team tasked with the responsibility to recommend how to reduce the cost of doing business at the ports.

That, he explained, went to demonstrate the commitment of the government to creating the enabling environment for port business to thrive as well as solidifying the government’s reputation as a listening government, having listened to concerns of various stakeholders in the port’s value chain, including ACHAG, the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), and the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA).

Mr Tampuli said while the government and the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority had been investing in infrastructure at the ports, evidence had 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 initiatives, he said, was the establishment of the paperless port system, with the full implementation of the digitalised business and commerce platforms.

A Deputy Marketing and Corporate Affairs Manager of the GPHA, Nana Esi Söderberg, on behalf of the Director-General of the 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 work flow, creating transparent processes, providing competitive rates and actively showing the willingness to continually improve towards facilitating smoother business operations at the ports.

The Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Shippers' Authority, Sylvia Asana Owu, who chaired the function, stressed the need for collaboration among stakeholders to find workable solutions to the challenges to ensure smooth business through the ports.

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