Particularly sensitive discussions have gone on at the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) with focus on managing media reports which exposed the over 45 percent shortfall in revenue targets for the month of June at the Tema Ports and the suggested strategies are jaw-dropping, The New Publisher has gathered.
For the month of June, total port revenue from Tema was only GH¢553,566,898.06. The target, which was arrived at after factoring in the COVID-19 slow season and all other factors, was GH¢1,006,880,000.00 for the Tema Port.
The reports showed that that revenue collection at the Tema Ports for the month of June 2020 had a variance of over 45 percent which in actual figures works to GH¢-453,313,101.94. The revenue statistics was captured in the Tema Collection’s monthly revenue performance report released on July 1 by the Policy and Programmes office of the GRA-Customs Division.
Insiders say the revenue shortfall was caused by a systemic violation of World Trade Organization (WTO) standard procedures in trade facilitation. The blame falls on the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS platform that has been enveloped in all manner of embarrassing inefficiencies that have disrupted the ease of doing business and made the Ghana ports unattractive for business.
Until the WTO standard procedures in Single Window and paperless ports management are adopted by Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS and strictly adhered to, revenue mobilization would continue to suffer.
Meanwhile, Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS is still unable to completely synchronize all stakeholder institutions and regulatory agencies in the single window and paperless ports chain and in many instances electronic bank payments do not go through therefore importers resort to physical cash payments of import duties with its accompanying human interference.
Further breaching the standard procedures, there are instances of manual verification, manual releases, plus physical inspection of goods leading to delays and possible human influence.
There is also countless complaints of wrongful calculation of import duties to an extent that under Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS a 2016 model Chevrolet could be cleared for as low as GHC14 amidst other breaches of WTO standard procedures.
The importer was rather blamed and accused of beating the system.
Sadly, the focus of the “sensitive discussions” at the GRA have not been on how to genuinely solve the above flaws of Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS in order to prevent a repetition of the shortfall so as to optimize revenue mobilization. Rather, in what seems like a ‘see no evil, hear no evil and talk no evil’ type of approach, the focus has been on investigating how the shortfall figures reached the media and which innocent but suspected officers should be transferred or ‘sent to Siberia’.
The powers that be have been telling the media they have reached and even gone past their revenue targets. They thought they had swept under the rug, the revenue shortfall figures for the month of June but unknown to them, the media already had it and even that of July; shortfall figures that have caused a great discomfort for the GRA simply because the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS platform is simply not meeting its targets.
Completely dazed by the media publication of the shortfall, officers at the Policy and Programmes unit, where the figures were compiled, have rather become targets.
This abysmal performance at the Tema Ports under the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS team is no different from worrying shortfalls in revenue across all other points of collection including the Kotoka International Airport, Elubo, Takoradi and other such places.
On the sidelines of the incompetence in motion is a triangular blame-game between the GRA, managers of the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS platform and freight forwarders.
The freight forwarders have consistently pointed out that the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS platform is a polished scam packaged as a trade facilitation vendor but has turned out to be worse than whatever supposed challenge it promised to cure.
Meanwhile, it is not the entire leadership of the GRA that is in support of the attempt to cover up the incompetency of the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS management that has resulted in a continuous disruption in the ease of doing business and frustration to importers and freight forwarders.
There are some who are of the solid opinion the right things ought to be done to salvage revenue avenues for government.
Others also are of the opinion their jobs and reputations would be at stake if it continues to make newspaper headlines that revenue targets are not been met and that there is a variance of over 45 percent occasioned by avoidable human errors and inefficiencies of the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS platform.
Never before in the history of Ghana’s finances would the country be in need of more revenue to recover from the pangs of the adverse effects of COVID-19 and also to sustain the several brilliant financial subsidies announced by the Akufo-Addo led government.
The financial prospects of the country, however, appear relatively bleak with the challenges in revenue collection, caused by the controversial Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS tragedy.
MORE ICUMS CHAOS
Aside the agonizing discomfort to freight forwarders and trade facilitation stakeholders, importers from other countries who use Ghana’s ports as an entry point of export before charting their goods by road to their respective countries have started to give clear indications that are abandoning Tema and Takoradi ports so as to move to neighboring countries.
The revenue stream flowing from such imports would be lost to Ghana and transferred to other neighboring countries simply because the much-touted ease of doing business and impressive trade facilitation systems in Ghana have been completely disrupted by the introduction of the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS platforms.
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