The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) is awaiting approval from Cabinet to fully deploy the new UNIPASS trade facilitation technology across all entry points in the country under a new name Integrated Customs Management System (ICMS), a Deputy Finance Minister, Mr Kweku Kwarteng, has said.
"The system will be deployed across the country in the coming weeks. We are very close to the full deployment of the system but the name we are putting before Cabinet is the Integrated Customs Management System (ICMS).
“Once the approval is given by Cabinet, there will be an official launch of the technology under the name ICMS," the Deputy Minister said on Sunday, March 8, 2020 in Accra.
Currently, he said the new system was being piloted across 49 entry points in 11 regions of the country.
“Some of the entry points include Elubo, Half Assini, Jehwi Wharf, Omanpe, Dadieso, Yakaase, Aflao, Havi, Kpoglo, Akanu, Ho, Shia, Nyive, Honuta, Batume Junction, Lakplevi Dafor, Wli Agorviefe, Menuso, Tinjase Kpetoe Patrol Base, Agotime Afegame, among others,” he said.
The UNIPASS 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 replaces the existing service providers, the Ghana Community Network Services (GCNet), which has operated for nearly 17 years, and West Blue Consulting which has also operated for five years.
UNIPASS, which will begin full operations soon, is expected to address key challenges at the ports.
The introduction of the system has received strong opposition from various circles within the maritime space and other civil society bodies on the need to stick with the existing single window in order not to severely disrupt trade and revenue flows.
Policy think-tank, IMANI Africa, has questioned why the ministries of trade and industry and finance are bent on replacing the existing reliable customs and ports technologies with UNIPASS—an expensive and untested ports valuation system.
Critics of the UNIPASS have also cited the presumed distortions that the new system will bring to the shipping community, especially at a time that the ports’ stakeholders were getting in-tuned with current run by Westblue Consulting and GCNet, coupled with the impressive gains of the paperless port reforms.
In an attempt to address some of the concerns, Mr Kwarteng who took his turn on the Eye on Port media platform said lack of collaboration between West Blue Consulting and Ghana Community Network (GCNet) was one of the major reason why government decided to settle on a single vendor.
He said the government was prepared to address concerns of stakeholders “as it takes steps to implement the best end-to-end customs management system available”.
“We are aware of the existing infrastructure for customs processes but this technology is the only one so far that offers end-to-end services starting from the beginning to the end.”
He indicated that the system had a lot of benefits to offer both internal and external users; something the port community would attest to once the system was fully rolled out.
Unlike the systems of the departing vendors, the deputy minister said the new technology was built by the Customs Division of GRA with support from CUPIA Korea and was 100 per cent owned by Ghana.
"This system is owned 100 per cent by the country. We will make sure we deploy the needed expert to localise it," he said.