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Suspend UNIPASS, freight forwarders demand

Importers in Takoradi express anger over undue delays and costly glitches with new customs management system

Freight forwarders in Takoradi gathered on Thursday (7 May) at the offices of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority in Takoradi to protest against the UNIPASS system.

Speaking to members of the press, the freight forwarders said glitches with the new customs management system, which processes all documents and payments through one window, have proved problematic to their business and will ultimately affect their income.

Members of the opposition National Democratic Congress have called repeatedly for the government to roll back on the new system and end the deal.

Back to the future?

A few weeks earlier, members of the freight forwarders’ association raised reservations during the piloting of the system and training in its use. Government officials gave assurances that their grievances had been heard and that they would be addressed in due course, before the system was rolled out.

However, members of the association say, they have been obliged to protest because the challenges have not been addressed, leading directly to the problems they are experiencing.

Henderson McCarthy, a freight forwarder and importer who spoke to the press, called on the government to address the challenges posed by UNIPASS and to reinstate the GCNet system in the interim.

“All we are saying is that, if I have a machine that I’m working with and it takes me ten minutes to do a job, and you bring me a new one and a better machine in this 21st century but this machine is going to take me three hours to do the same job, then what are we talking about? Are you taking me back or into the future?

“The government has to take a look at this. We the importers and the clearing agents in Takoradi are not happy. It is taking us long to clear. It is taking us more time and [costs] more,” McCarthy said.

Squeeze state income

“If you happen to clear a vehicle on this UNIPASS, you get to the licensing office and it is not even in their system,” he said.

“Our call on government is for the government to suspend this UNIPASS and then they should better it up and come back.

“Let’s use the GCNet, because the government needs revenue [so] let’s give the government the revenue.

“Before they extended the UNIPASS to Tema, we had reported every problem happening here in Takoradi. So Tema stood on those grounds and said, ‘No, we don’t want it,’” McCarthy said.

“But unfortunately for us in Takoradi because of the [smaller] quantum of goods coming here, they didn’t listen to us.’’

Mounting challenges

An executive member of the Takoradi District of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Paul Benson, echoed McCarthy’s sentiments.

“It has really affected us, in the sense that even the shipping lines and other stakeholders are having a lot of challenges.

“We felt it was just an ordinary glitch but now we have noticed that it is taking a seed that is really worrying us.

“For instance, if you want to even send your declaration or CCVR [Customs Classification and Verification Report], which was previously taking us some short time, now it can even take more than three weeks and they are still having it in their system.”

Atsu Boye

* Asaase Radio 99.5 FM. Coming to a dial near you.

* Twitter: @Asaase995FM

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