Effective Monday, June 1, 2020, all new transactions in respect of import and export are expected to be processed only through the Ghana Revenue Authority’s new Integrated Customs Management Systems, also known as UNIPASS.
UNIPASS, which will replace the systems operated by West Blue Consulting and the Ghana Community Service Network Limited (GCNet), is an upgraded electronic clearing platform that operates as a single entity to provide an end-to-end customs administration.
The piloting of the new system had been fraught with a lot of challenges, leaving importers and freight forwarders dissatisfied.
The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders has thus called on government to suspend the implementation.
But speaking to Citi Business News, Public Relations Officer of Ghana Link Network Services Limited, operators UNIPASS, Norvan Acquah- Hayford, said all the bottlenecks have been cleared for a smooth takeoff.
“Well, it is expected to be smooth because we have done a lot of training for all the stakeholders. If you look at the directive that came from the Commissioner of the GRA, what it means is that from Monday, the new Integrated Customs Management System is what all imports and export declarations would have to go through. You might not have any of the old vendors’ system or the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) working. It is the ICUM that takes over, and all declarations that are supposed to be done will be done through that”.
Angry freight forwarders, importers picket at GRA to demand suspension of UNIPASS
On Thursday May 7th, some freight forwarders in Takoradi picketed at the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority offices in Takoradi to demand the suspension of UNIPASS which they say has been problematic for their operations.
According to them, although they raised several issues with the UNIPASS throughout the training and piloting of the system a month ago in Takoradi, the problems were not addressed leading to its suspension after it was extended to Tema.
Speaking to Citi News in Takoradi, a Freight Forwarder who is also an importer, Henderson McCarthy, called on the government to restore GCNet to Takoradi just as it has been done in Tema until the UNIPASS challenges are fixed.
The UNIPASS/ICUMS system
The UNIPASS/ICUMS platform is a new port clearing system that processes documents and payments through one window: a departure from the previous system where valuation and classification and risk management and payment were handled by different entities.
CUPIA Korea, which is assisting the Customs Division to implement the UNIPASS system, has described it as an enhanced single window system for trade facilitation.
The company which is expected to address key challenges at the ports also replaces the existing service providers, the Ghana Community Network Services (GCNet), which has operated for nearly 17 years, and West Blue Consulting.
Policy think-tank, IMANI Africa, last month, petitioned government to temporarily suspend the operations of UNI-PASS and allow GCNET and West Blue to operate for the remainder of the year to rake in revenue in excess of GHS10 billion for the country, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on trade activities.
Also, the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders questioned the efficacy of system hours to the official outdooring of the system at the country’s ports.
The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders has also predicted revenue losses if the concerns raised by stakeholders on the inefficiencies of the UNIPASS system are not addressed.