West Blue controversy deepens
The contention over the purported move to engage West Blue Consulting to set up a single window project for Ghana continues to deepen.
While on one hand documents are being circulated to the effect that the work of West Blue in Nigeria was nothing short of a failure, West Blue has also produced documents to the contrary.
One of such letters sighted by the Daily Graphic was from one Ebenezer Nkrumah, Secretary to the Ghanaian Community in Nigeria, Ikeja, Lagos State, which alleged that West Blue was a scam.
The letter called on President John Dramani Mahama to use his good offices to “halt any attempt by some government officials to force on Ghanaians, the services of an incompetent company which has failed the Nigerian economy by the admission of the Coordinating Minister of Economy and Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
The said admission of the Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, dated April 22, 2014 and addressed to the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, was titled “progress on the implementation of the pre-arrival assessment report”.
In the said letter, the minister asked the Comptroller-General to provide her with update on the activities undertaken by Techno West Blue Consulting in developing the initial platform “which I understand is no longer in use. I would also be grateful for a breakdown of the costs associated with developing the now failed system”.
The letter further said “I am pleased that the enhanced [Pre-arrival Assessment Report] PAAR system, developed by Webb Fontaine, has helped to address the issues experienced under the former platform”.
The letter from the secretary to the Ghanaian community in Lagos alleged that West Blue nearly collapsed the Nigerian trade facilitation and revenue generation thus were booted out by the Nigerian government and asked to acquire the needed expertise and experience before coming back and had now decided to use Ghana as an experimental case study.
The leadership of the Ghanaian Community in Nigeria said it was ready to assist the government to acquire the relevant information needed from trustworthy members of the Nigerian Customs Services Board and get the country to unravel the alleged dubious projects of West Blue Consulting.
But West Blue has, through its information service unit, made available to the Daily Graphic a response by the Comptroller-General to the letter by the Nigerian Minister of Finance.
The letter, dated May 5, 2014 and addressed to the Finance Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, referred to his letter and touched on “a misconception” which it would like to clarify.
It said there were general teething issues experienced with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) as was with any IT project of that scale, adding that “however, on analysis, majority of the issues encountered during this period were due to conflict of interest with Webb Fontaine (WF)”.
The letter alleged that “lack of support from WF for a parallel run of PAAR prior to take-off impacted significantly on officers’ learning experience and technical issues identification. The Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy may recall her directives on the parallel run which was not fulfilled”.
Based on the issues identified, the letter said, WF was directed to work with West Blue on the technical issues, which the former did not do.
“In essence, therefore, Hon. Minister, the assertion that the PAAR application developed by the NCS, in partnership with Techno Brain West Blue (TBWB) is a failure, is unfounded,” it said.
The letter drew the Finance Minister’s attention to the fact that total expenditure incurred on the PAAR platform and Trade Hub were from the Nigeria Customs Service budget and should ordinarily have been provided for by Webb Fontaine.
“I would, therefore, wish to request Webb Fontaine through the Coordinating Minister to refund to the Service the total amount expended.”
The Daily Graphic was also supplied with a copy of a certificate of merit from the World Customs Organisation (WCO) to West Blue for executing its mandate with Nigeria with distinction.
There was another letter from the director in charge of Compliance and Facilitation Directorate of the WCO, Mr Gaozhang Zhu, dated June 18, 2014, to the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) informing him of WCO’s decision to include the Nigerian Trade Hub developed by West Blue in the revised Single Window Compendium.
The letter said Nigeria’s success story would “serve as an inspiration for like-minded countries looking to enhance transparency and trade facilitation through the use of information technology”.
Nigerian freight forwarders
Meanwhile, the National President of the Nigerian National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr Eugene Nweke, has urged Ghanaians to remain resolute in ensuring the implementation of the single window concept to enable the Custom Service to take over the duties of the Destination Inspection Companies (DICs).
Dr Eugene Nweke, who said this in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra, disclosed that since the implementation of the system, the revenue of the Custom Service had increased from 800 billion Naira to more than 1.3 billion Naira.
He said in spite of the strong opposition that certain vested interests put up when Nigeria was implementing the same system, the success stories that had emerged had justified the decision to implement the concept.
For the past two years, he said, the country had saved more than 60 billion Naira that should have gone to DICs while the Customs Service had also employed 10,000 staff.