Mr Carlos Ahenkorah, Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry and Mr Isaac Adongo, MP for Bolgatanga Central

A Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Carlos Ahenkorah has demanded an apology from the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bolgatanga Central, Isaac Adongo, for making baseless comments against Senior Minister Yaw Osafo-Maafo.

Mr Adongo had indicated that the senior minister should be held responsible for challenges encountered at the Tema Port following the rollout of the new Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS).

However, Mr Ahenkorah who is also the MP for Tema West to told to Bolgatanga lawmaker to withdraw the comment and render an apology to Senior Minister.

The Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry and a member of the joint inter-ministerial committee working on rolling out of ICUMS, demanded the apology in a statement issued in Accra.

“Holding the Senior Minister responsible for what happened at the Tema Port would be unfortunate and a calculated attempt to malign an honest politician who is respected by both sides of the House,” he stated. 

He explained that the newly signed trade facilitation agreement between the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ghana Link Network Services Limited, which has contracted South Korea Customs Universal Pass (UNI-PASS) International Agency (CUPIA), was a government decision.

He pointed out that Cabinet set up a Joint Inter-Ministerial Oversight Committee (JIMOC) chaired by the Senior Minister to oversee the implementation of ICUMS. 

“The Senior Minister has diligently discharged his duties as the Chairman of the Joint Inter Ministerial Oversight Committee to oversee successful deployment of an end-to-end Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS).

“But for the Senior Minister, we would not be where we are today with the reinstatement of calm in our clearance processes,” he added. 

According to Mr Ahenkorah, what happened at the port last Tuesday was reminiscent of a typical system deployment which had done well in other collections like the various entry points and the port of Takoradi during piloting but had challenges at the final full implementation for various reasons. 

The Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry stated that every newly deployed Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system experiences difficulties and shows significant “left outs” that only need fixing.

“You never get a newly introduced system from the start without any operational hitches.

“It happened at the onset of Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) in 2002 and West Blue in 2015, but these problems were surmounted with time to make the system near seamless,” he added.

Ahenkorah revealed that the few problems identified with ICUMS during piloting have been successfully corrected and ready to roll out at the Tema Port.

“It is relevant to note that the challenge encountered was not a system challenge but rather an operational challenge.

“To suggest that the Senior Minister eyes the UNIPASS for his pension exposes the mindset of a befuddled ignoramus.

“The Senior Minister’s intervention rather calmed nerves and brokered peace and understanding amongst all stakeholders, with a resultant resumption of operations at the port. 

“It is worth noting that UNIPASS did some work with the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) in 2015, where it undertook feasibility studies on a single window operation with regards to international best practices as compared to having multiple vendors for the clearing of goods at the ports which hitherto had created a lot of congestion, including goods going into demurrage, etc,” he said.

The minister explained that the new system will enhance fast processing and quick reconciliation of documents unlike the existing multiple systems. 

“It would be very unfortunate if Isaac Adongo’s confusion hinges only on the occurrence of last Tuesday’s brouhaha to support his judgment of an inferior system being deployed,” he said.

In his view, it has become undoubtedly clear by stakeholders that the ICUMS (UNI-PASS) system, once fully deployed, would ensure a considerable increase in revenue mobilisation and security. 

“I wish to state that the Senior Minister, a former Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, has no interest in who operates the port or what pertains, but is rather interested in maximising revenue and adopting the best practices of trade facilitation at our ports.

“The Honourable Member should perhaps do a little research in such matters before spewing irresponsible statements on the economist, banker, engineer, and politician, who has diligently served in many capacities in public and in private sectors,” he said.