A Deputy Minister for Finance, Mr Kwaku Agyeman Kwarteng has served notice that no amount of resistance will deter government from rolling out Universal Pass (UNI-PASS), the new electronic customs clearing system.
Korea Customs was contracted by Ghana Link Network Services Limited in a trade facilitation agreement with the Ministry of Trade and Industry to introduce UNI-PASS, a product of Korea Customs Business wing, termed CUPIA.
Mr Kwarteng observed that the multiple service providers working at the ports do not see eye to eye as they strive to dominate each other, affecting effective collaboration.
According to him, corruption is also pervasive at the ports, leading to revenue leakages.
Government, the Deputy Finance Minister reiterated, has decided to replace the existing multiple service providers with a single service provider offering an end-to-end system capable of significantly reducing leakages, undervaluation and other illegal activities.
He was reacting to concerns raised by freight forwarders about the UNI-PASS rollout in an interview with Kwami Sefa Kayi on Peace FM’s Kokrokoo morning show yesterday.
Mr Edward Akrong, President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, who admitted attending training organised on UNI-PASS, said he did not see anything different from the system being operated by existing vendors.
According to him, he has no knowledge of any piloting of UNI-PASS, saying the preparation towards the rollout was not comprehensive.
Mr Akrong said it was only on Monday that training for stakeholders at Elubo started.
For him, the existing systems were built overtime and should be supported to include functions that would deliver the results government expected.
However, Mr Kwarteng likened the manner in which freight forwarders have attacked UNI-PASS to the behaviour of an opposition party.
He disclosed that Minister for Finance Ken Ofori-Atta and President Nana Akufo-Addo were in South Korea to see how UNI-PASS worked.
Mr Kwarteng explained that the President and Finance Minister were impressed with what they saw, hence the decision to deploy it in Ghana.
According to him, several tests have been conducted for over a year, which includes stress tests, and so far, all the tests have been successful.
The Deputy Finance Minister said simulation has been conducted at all entry points, adding that they met a lot of stakeholders, and everything was going on well.
He said technical people on the project were satisfied to the extent that they recommended a full rollout on March 1, 2020.
However, the company was asked to start it at limited outlets that handle less than 10% of total import value.
Mr Kwarteng said the system could not start on Monday because administrative instructions to customs officers delayed.
He urged all stakeholders to file their complaints to the appropriate authority instead of using the media.
The Deputy Finance Minister stated that the end-to-end system developed by UNI-PASS is owned by Ghana government, which means the source code would be in the possession of Ghana.
According to him, it makes management of unwholesome goods easier and also makes Ghana ports attractive.
He said the contract of some vendors have expired while others have valid contract, and was hopeful ongoing negotiations would resolve matters without resulting in judgment debt.
However, he said any vendor who disagrees with the outcome of negotiations and seeks redress in court would be met in court by the Attorney-General.