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GRA to engage GCNet, West Blue as UNIPASS deploys system

A Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) transition team is set to negotiate with IT firms West Blue Consulting and Ghana Community Network (GCNet) Services Limited about impending processes as UNIPASS deploys its customs management system.

The intervention is to ensure a final decision on the operations of these IT firms does not result in judgment debt to the state.

Commissioner of Customs Division of the GRA, Colonel Kwadwo Damoah (Rtd) who disclosed this indicated that results of the negotiation would determine the next action government will take.

He disclosed this at a meeting with journalists to explain how the UNIPASS system works.

The GRA and the government, he said, are scrutinizing every aspect of the existing contracts to prevent such loss to the state and noted that the contract has room for termination.

The GRA boss rejected assertions that the abrogation of the contract of the two companies operating the current system would result in judgment debts.

He indicated that the transition team that he leads has extended an invitation to the two companies after they initially declined an invitation from the Minister of Finance.

GCNet, he said, has responded by presenting a proposal and that the GRA is looking to West Blue to also get involved in the negotiation for a peaceful way forward.

Col. Damoah mentioned that every contract has termination clauses and the government would carefully study them to make the right decisions in the interest of the country.

He explained that the contracts have overlapping effects, which suggests that the existing service providers could still play a role if it is determined.

On the possible payment of compensation should the government terminate the contracts of the two companies, the Commissioner noted that provisions in the contract would determine whether compensation would be paid or not.

According to Colonel (Rtd) Damoah, the UNIPASS system has been found to be more efficient than the existing one, which would help reduce revenue leakages at the ports and turnaround time involved in port clearance.

All preparations needed for the full implementation of the system, he said, are far advanced, including the training of 1,400 customs officials and 800 other stakeholders on how to use the system.

A  Deputy Commissioner of the Customs Division of the GRA in charge of Policy and Programmes, Mr. Felix Teye Mate Kodjo disclosed that piloting of the UNIPASS system would start next week at the Takoradi Port in the Western Region.

According to Mr. Kodjo, the pilot of UNIPASS followed a successful test run of direct imports and exports at the Aflao Sector to ensure the system was fit for purpose.

Assistant Commissioner of Customs, Emmanuel Ohene said UNIPASS, essentially, is an electronic customs clearance system that computerizes customs procedures and provides for the automation of the clearance process as a solution to overcome the increased volumes in trade and travelers given the limited resources available.

According to him, UNIPASS was composed of 77 modules with five subordinate systems: a Single Window (SW) system; a clearance management system; a cargo management system; an information management system; and an administration system.

He noted that as a prerequisite to introducing the UNIPASS in Ghana, CUPIA conducted a feasibility study of Ghana’s clearance process and supply chain management systems to enable CUPIA to produce a robust solution that is suitable for Ghana’s requirements.

Subsequently, he said, CUPIA developers engaged various critical stakeholders to craft Ghana’s version of UNIPASS, but which was to conform to such international standards as of the WCO, WTO and the Kyoto Convention.

He stated that a state-of-the-art data centre backed with fast internet link has been established at the Ministry of Finance to manage both legacy data, as well as new data to be acquired by the UNIPASS.

“This feature tends to consolidate all data that currently are spread over various service providers but not properly linked and utilised as an integrated whole,” he said.

Mr. Ohene said in consultation with key stakeholders, the Customs Division, Ghana Link and partners CUPIA have developed various modules to suit Ghana’s trade environment.

“These include processes as Manifest input, Classification and Valuation, Cargo Handling and Clearance, Free Zones, Transit and Bonded Warehousing, Human Resource Administration, and Risk Management.

“These systems have undergone varied scrutiny and have received user-acceptance by customs, a vigorous process that has involved customs staff, and key stakeholders such as customs brokers and freight forwarders, shipping and airlines, insurers, and participating banks,” he stated.

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