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Stop the huge revenue theft with UNIPASS

Fri, 12 Jun 2020 Source: Isaac Adongo

The Government of Ghana led by H.E Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo Addo has deliberately deployed a weak so-called Integrated Customs Management System (ICUM) through Unipass to enable him and his cohorts of family and friends steal our dwindling revenues from the Country’s ports.

For decades, Ghana has been at the forefront of leading innovations in trade facilitation in the sub-region. Those innovations came after a series of dialogue, research, feasibility studies, and surveys that identified lapses in the system and sought credible mechanisms to reverse their impact on trade flows and the bottlenecks to revenue generation. The successful deployment of these initiatives have not only helped to minimize inefficiencies and improved revenue generations in Ghana’s twin ports, but they have also enhanced Ghana’s image as a destination of choice for traders in West Africa.

Combined with other initiatives by other stakeholders in the sector, these measures have ensured that trade flows into and through the ports have enjoyed strong growth (until recently), resulting in more revenues generated for the state. In the business sense, these initiatives have also helped to position Ghana’s economy in an attractive light as positive scores in trade facilitation brighten a country’s chances of clinching a better spot in the World Bank’s enviable table of Ease of Doing Business.

The institutions at the forefront of these achievements have been the Ghana Community Services Network (GCNET), which started operations in 2002, and the West Blue Consulting Ltd, which started operations in 2015. Since assuming office, the President and his family and friends have sought to pursue policies to deny the Ghanaian taxpayer and the economy the benefits of increased streams of revenue by deploying his costs but ineffective solutions that only tend to benefit his corrupt nature. You will recall the termination of the international call clearinghouse arrangement with Afriwave that saved Ghana millions of dollars in revenues that would have been lost to the state and replaced by the signing of a multi-billion dollar (about $1.2 billion contracts) with Kelni-GVG which has proven to have no capacity to independently assure us of tax revenues from the Telcos and the signing of a dubious mobile money interoperability agreement costing the Ghanaian user some (US$1.3 billion) and the infamous Unipass deal that requires Ghanaians to pay more for a useless manual system.

IMPACT ON REVENUES

In 2015, the solutions of the two firms, Wes Blue and GCnet were combined to provide an integrated end-to-end processing platform to deliver the Ghana National Single Window (GNSW), the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) and its Trade Facilitation Single Window Platform (TFP) -components to meet ISO 9000 and 27000 certification standards. The integration proved successful, resulting in government revenues consistently rising (except in 2019 when the government reduced benchmark values at the ports) to the admiration of all governments.

The data shows that customs revenue generated through the system rose from GHC7.5 billion in 2015 to about GHC13.2 billion in 2018. This represented an accumulated growth in customs revenues between 2015 and 2018 of about 76%. Unsurprisingly, the system the two companies have put together has not had any system breaches since its inception. Indeed, the system’s robustness in the midst of expanded port operations has been remarkable as evidenced through the increased revenues delivered year-in-year-out.

In spite of these outstanding performances, GCNET and West Blue whose contracts are due to expire at the end of 2023 and 2020, respectively, are paid a combined fee of 0.54% of Free on Board (FOB) i.e. taking into consideration government’s 35% shares in GCNET.

Now, after these years of sustained innovations, deliberate investments and visible improvements in the gains, the country is readying itself to throw away its best trade facilitation service providers for a company that neither has a track record nor a concrete, a defined, a professed or a self-procured system to work with. The Akufo-Addo-Bawumia government is ready to abandon the tried and tested system that the GCNet and the West Blue built for the country for something neither the government nor its promoters have been able to say makes it worth the consideration, talk less of being superior to what we already have in place. They have set in motion a clandestine move to abandon the best for the worst and turnaround and give the best’s platform to the worst to transact business.

After canceling the contracts of Wes Blue and GCNET before they fully run out their terms, Nana Addo has taken a dangerous step to saddle this country with potential judgment debts just to satisfy his parochial corrupt interest. What is worse is that the system being implemented at the ports today takes Ghana back to pre-2002 outmoded ancient manual operations at our ports.

It is instructive to note that this development is deliberate and meant solely to allow Nana Addo and his family and friends weaken the robust end-to-end system that was built by Wes Blue and GCNET to facilitate the easy, faster and controlled clearance of goods at the port so they can clear goods for free at the expense of the state.

Below is the full opinion

Columnist: Isaac Adongo