IN a bid to curtail revenue losses associated with gold exports, and repatriate foreign currency earned from the trade back to Ghana, the Precious Minerals Marketing Company (PMMC) has begun moves towards the establishment of a world-class gold assay centre.
The ultra-modern facility is expected to help seal all loopholes being abused by rouge gold traders.
The PMMC’s revenue has been fast declining, falling by 83 per cent from GH¢136 million to GH¢23 million in 2016, according to the 2016 Annual Aggregate report on State-Owned Enterprises.
The Board Chairman of PMMC, Mr Kiston Akomeng Kissi, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that such losses could be attributed to the activities of rogue traders and the inability of the PMMC to conduct world-class assay and analysis on gold ore presented to it for export.
“We are working around the clock to find solutions to these problems and that is being done forcefully; we are building capacity to turn things round so I can assure you that with what we are doing now, all the revenue losses that Ghana has been incurring will not happen again,” he said on September 19, this year, after the PMMC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Baird & Co Ltd, the United Kingdom’s largest independent gold trader for the construction of the international gold assay centre in Accra.
Although the PMMC is mandated by law to determine the gold content of any gold ore to be exported by a Licensed Gold Exporter (LGE) using the appropriate assay methods, it currently lacks the capacity to meet the international gold assay standards.
As a result, large-scale gold mining companies, over the years, assay the gold they export using their own facilities which deprives the government first hand access to data on the quantity of gold exported by these companies.
The facility, expected to be completed in February 2019 will, therefore, accord the PMMC the international capacity to assay and analyse gold earmarked for exportation by any LGE irrespective of their size, to determine its quantity and purity.
The Bank of Ghana (BoG) suspended the PMMC from directly shipping gold out of the country after it was discovered in 2017 that it was unable to trace documents surrounding over US$2.3billion in gold exports which resulted in the failure to repatriate at least 80 per cent of foreign currency earned from exports back to Ghana.
A report by the Wealth of Nations, published in April this year said the trade data between Ghana and its three major gold trading partners, Switzerland, India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), revealed that over US$6billion worth of gold exports remain unaccounted for from 2013 to 2016.
For instance, from 2013 to 2016, the gold import-export variance between Ghana and Switzerland amounted to over US$3billion. While Switzerland’s gold import figures revealed that they had imported close to US$7billion worth of gold from Ghana, Ghana’s official records indicated an export of a little over US$3billion posting a deficit of US$4billion.
The Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) has attributed such revenue losses to the illegal trade in the small-scale mining sector, and the GRA’s inability to ensure proper taxation scheme in that sector.
However, the Executive Director of Baird & Co Ltd, Ms Lorena Baird, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that the assay centre would be equipped with a facility that would grant the GRA first hand access to data on all gold export activities on a daily basis to enable the tax collection agency to rake in the required taxes.
“The most important thing for me is that Ghanaians don’t have the visibility of gold exports at the moment because the GRA doesn’t have the facilities, so the fantastic thing about what we are going to do is that everything will be highly technological which will create a tax bill immediately after an assay is done so that by six o’clock each day, whoever represents GRA at the facility would be able to print out a report on all export activities and the taxes will be generated automatically,” she said.
Ms Baird added that “we are bringing the facilities so that even the big Ghanaian mining companies will have nothing to say about it because our facility will be bigger than theirs.” —GB