Graphic Business News

Importers demand accountability on AU levy

By: Daily Graphic
Dr Joseph Obeng, President, GUTA
Dr Joseph Obeng, President, GUTA

Following the implementation of the African Levy Act, (Act 952) 2017, effective, Friday, January 12, imports which qualify under the act shall attract a levy of 0.2 per cent, but importers think otherwise and have, therefore, hinted of future resistance, Maclean Kwofi reports.

Importers are pushing for a broader consultation on the implementation of the 0.2 per cent African Union (AU) levy, which took effect on Friday, January 12.

The importers are also demanding a comprehensive document from the government on how the AU intends to use and account for funds which will accrue from the levy, although Parliament Committee report dated November 8, last year, indicated that the levy is meant to fund the activities of the AU.

Failure to adhere to the demand, the importers, led by the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) and the Importers and Exporters Association (IEA), told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS in separate interviews in Accra that its members would resist the implementation of the new levy.

The importers say that the state, rather than the citizens, should be made to contribute to the AU fund but once the responsibility is being pushed on them, it is equally fair for them to demand proper accountability.

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has begun the implementation of a levy imposed on ‘eligible imports’ of goods originating from a non-member territory into member state territory to be consumed in the member states.

This follows the passage of the African Levy Act, (Act 952) 2017 to help implement the imposition of the levy. This means that imports which qualify under the Act shall attract a levy of 0.2 per cent on the cost insurance and freight (CIF) of the goods.

Future resistance
But, the President of GUTA, Dr Joseph Obeng, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS on Tuesday, January 16, after a crunch meeting between importers and officials of the GRA on the implementation of the levy, that without proper accountability on the levy, its members will resist contributing to it in the future.

“We have been contributing to the development of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) through the imposition of a 0.5 per cent ECOWAS levy yet we have not been accounted to; so, we that demanding accountability on this new levy which is meant for the AU is appropriate,” he said.

He mentioned that it was incumbent on member states to ensure that AU would be accountable for funds it collected from the 55 member states of the union through the imposition of the levy.

He stated that although the business community, in principle, was not against the levy, it believed that the proper education was needed to help explain the specific purpose of the fund to the AU.

“Although, we have heard that the funds are collected to finance activities of the AU; we ought to be told whether it is for research, peacekeeping, or establishing an economic body to support member states,” he stressed.

 Dr Obeng added that GUTA’s members would not hesitate to pass on the cost to consumers through increased prices of their goods in the market.

“This is simple; once the new levy is in place and importers are being billed for it, we will not hesitate to push the extra cost to the consumer,” he said.

Rising levy at the ports
The Executive Secretary of the Importers and Exporters Association, Mr Samson Awingobit Asaaki, in an interview with the paper, mentioned that the business community was not ready to absorb the new AU levy.

“Since the government is implementing the 0.2 per cent levy without regard to our concerns, we will also close our eyes and pass it on to consumers because it will surely increase our cost of operation as importers,” he said.

He explained that it would have been prudent for the government entity mandated to collect the levy to have engaged stakeholders in the industry before the implementation.

“Such engagement could have educated us on the need for the payment of the levy so that we do not resist in the future,” the executive secretary added.

He, however, expressed worry over the rate at which the government was increasing levies at the ports without regards to the concerns of the private sector.

“If you had not informed me; I did not know that the implementation of the levy that we publicly complained about has even begun. I am so worried that a government that prides itself that it believes in civil society engagement will do such a thing,” he said.

GRA mandated to levy
The GRA, in a public advertisement in the Wednesday, January 10 edition of the Daily Graphic, hinted that it would from January 12, start the implementation of the African Union Import Levy Act.

The publication stated that in September, last year, African Union Assembly decided to impose 0.2 per cent levy on ‘eligible imports’ of goods originating from a non-member territory into member state territory to be consumed in the member states.

Parliament has since passed the Africa Levy Act, (Act 952) to implement that decision of the AU. This means that imports which qualify under the act shall attract a levy of 0.2 per cent.

“Under the act, the GRA has been given the responsibility to collect the levy. The Customs Division of the GRA has, therefore, put in the necessary measures to implement this mandate,” the publication stated.-GB