The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) has kicked against the move by the government to bring in a new company to oversee the implementation of the paperless system at the ports.
According to the association, the deal, which is coming at a time the GCNet and West Blue Consulting have an existing contract with the government to deliver similar products at the ports, was needless and dangerous.
Addressing journalists at a news conference in Accra on Monday, the President of GIFF, Mr Kwabena Ofosu Appiah, said the move to replace GCNet and West Blue Consulting had the tendency to render the entire paperless system at the ports useless.
“In the wake of the rigorous review of the paperless port system, spearheaded by no mean a person than the Vice-President of the land, we suddenly hear of the UNIPASS system announced by the Ministry of Trade to replace the existing workable solutions on the ground,” he complained.
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On March 29, this year, the Ministry of Trade and Industry signed a contract with Ghana Link Network Service Limited and its overseas partners, CUPIA Koria Customs Service, to oversee the implementation of the National Single Window Project, including the paperless system at the ports.
The new system the company is expected to roll out is called the Single Window and Customs Management System (UNIPASS).
Although the details of the contract were not disclosed, an announcement on the platform of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) said Ghana Link would be undertaking customs valuation and classification for enhanced revenue generation, scanning to end smuggling, risk management, among other functions, at the ports.
That was confirmed by a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Carlos Ahenkorah, at yesterday’s news conference in Accra.
Mr Appiah said GIFF and other stakeholders were shocked to learn about the new contract because there had been no stakeholder engagement.
“We do not know anything about it, and yet we form a crucial part of the stakeholders in that sector,” he said.
Additionally, he said, according to information gathered by the association, “the new company is not coming to do anything different from what is currently being done at the ports by GCNet and West Blue Consulting”.
“The trajectory on which we are riding is not only chaotic but suicidal. We have travelled on this journey before and have learnt our lessons as a country and for that matter we don’t need to repeat the errors of old. This is why it is very unfortunate for the Ministry of Trade to have announced the replacement of GCNeT and West Blue with no justification,” he contended.
He explained that since the introduction of the paperless system at the ports, there had been some consistent incremental progress in the areas of trade facilitation, revenue mobilisation, business process and IT infrastructure.
Mr Appiah indicated that members of GIFF were in doubt as to what had gone wrong to have warranted the bringing in of a new company to do the same work being done by the other companies.
Another issue raised by the association was the cost to the state if the contract with GCNeT and West Blue was abrogated.
The contract with Dubai Customs, representatives of West Blue, is expected to end in 2020, while that with GCNet was extended by five more years in 2017, translating into 2022.
Reacting to the issues raised by GIFF, Mr Ahenkorah, who was at the news conference, said the government was not going to cancel the contracts with GCNet and West Blue Consulting.
“These two companies will be allowed to complete the contract and, therefore, the issue of judgement debt will not come to play,” he explained.
Mr Ahenkorah urged the leadership of GIFF to come to the ministry, saying that their concerns would be addressed.