Graphic Business News

Paperless reforms take off today • Shippers upbeat about new directive

By: Maclean Kwofi
Mr Kwabena Ofosu Appiah
Mr Kwabena Ofosu Appiah

PLAYERS in the shipping business are hopeful that the new reforms introduced by the government on the paperless initiative will further improve the clearance process at the country’s seaports.

The government recently announced some new reforms to streamline inspections at the ports in a move to help enhance the paperless clearance system which was initiated some 11 months ago.

The reforms, which will officially take effect today, July 3, consist of a reduction in the number of inspection agencies at the ports from 16 to three agencies.

The three agencies to remain in operations at the ports are the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the Customs. National Security or NACOB is expected to join the new inspection team based on intelligence.

For this reason, the compliance stage of the clearance process has been abolished since it has become redundant under the new system. This function will be undertaken by the Customs Technical Services Bureau (CTSB).

Also, the government has established a task force to monitor the implementation of the paperless system at the ports on a daily basis and provide reports for action where bottlenecks arise.

In this regard, the shippers, led by the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), Importers and Exporters Association (IEA), and Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) are optimistic that the new reforms will yield the desired results at the ports.

As welcome news to the shipping community, the President of GIFF, Mr Kwabena Ofosu Appiah, said the reforms would help champion the needed efficiency at the country’s seaports.

He observed that the paperless system was hinged on two legs namely the information technology (IT) solution structure and the governance structure.

But, he explained that since its inception in September last year, the implementers of the system were rather focusing more on the IT solution structure than the governance structure.

“So, this basically brought imbalances in the system where lack of reforms in the governance structure was having negative effect on the success chalked up using IT solutions.

“Now that we have the assurance that the agencies have been reduced and the compliance stage of the clearance process has been abolished, we are hopeful that it would further improve the paperless clearance system at the ports,” he added.

Shippers hail new directive
The Executive Secretary of the Importers and Exporters Association, Mr Samson Awingobit Asaaki, in an interview with the GRAPHIC BUSINESS praised the government for making the move to reduce the activities of the agencies which  adversely impeded the ease of doing business at the ports and the country as a whole.

He observed that although the move was to help address the duplication of functions by some agencies at the ports, the government should ensure that, it was lawful and it was in the best interest of the country.

“For us, reducing the number of agencies at the ports is good but we should ensure that, it is done properly in order not to cause another impediment for shippers,” he noted.

Ease of doing business
For his part, the President of GUTA, Dr Joseph Obeng, observed that although the move was a commendable one, it would only lessen the ease of doing business at the ports and not the cost of doing business which was escalating each day with the implementation of the Common External Tariff (CET).

He noted that traders formerly paid 10 per cent for their products. However, with the coming of the CET, import duties had moved up 20 per cent and some had even gone as high as five per cent for products such as the confectionary.

He, therefore, called on the government to take a further look at the import duties and taxes charged on products in the country, as these import duties were negatively impacting on their businesses.

“We do not understand why rates should cumulate to more 52 per cent of our importing capital,” he said.

Dr Obeng explained that currently, import duty was at 20 per cent, with 17.5 per cent of value added tax (VAT), which was non-refundable, and additional levies and taxes numbering 19, cumulatively at about 12 per cent.

“It means that, if you have sent US$100,000 to import goods, you should look for US$ 52,000 to pay import duties and taxes, which is gradually becoming counterproductive to our operations in the country,” he added. —GB