The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has recommended that to ensure efficiency and speedy clearance of goods at the nation's ports, there should be a written outline of the port clearing process.
Colonel Kwadwo Damoah, Commissioner, Customs Division, GRA, said the respective laws and regulations governing the operations of the various port authorities should be clearly defined and outlined.
He said the respective laws should be enacted with clear knowledge of the contents, operations, roles, powers and limits as prescribed for each organisation and contained in the law governing its operations and same for the other.
This, he said would help avoid conflicting situations in the ports due to conflicting provisions in their respective enactments.
"There is the need for a written outline of the port clearing process and procedures which should be made available and accessible to the trading and business community for their understanding," Col Damoah stated on Wednesday in a speech read on his behalf at a Multi-stakeholder Business Integrity Forum (MSBIF) in Accra.
The MSBIF is a quarterly event being organised by the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), the Local Chapter of Transparency International, under the DANIDA-supported Tax and Development Programme.
The one-day workshop on the theme "Promoting an effective and efficient business environment within our ports: A case of cumbersome clearing process", was attended by more than 80 participants drawn from the freight forwarding industry, mobile communications networks, and state institutions in operating at the ports.
The objective of the workshop was to create an avenue for deliberations on challenges faced by the private sector in doing business in Ghana and to elicit appropriate state institutions' responses and commitments for the resolution of identified challenges.
Col Damoah said a realistic approach to promoting an effective and efficient business environment within the nation's ports would be to first of all identify the problems in the ports and be able to analyze the situation.
He said the problems at the nation's ports, especially the sea ports include congestion and insecurity of goods; citing delays in clearance of goods, taking delivery of cleared consignment of goods, demurrage, and high cost of processing goods from time of arrival to time of taking delivery of the goods.
He said the situation was compounded by the activities of various stakeholders who take advantage of the resultant lapses and opportunities for corruption to abuse the clearing processes and duty payments.
He said the public institutions of concern were the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), the Customs Division of the GRA and the Port Health Services.
"On the part of the port authorities, the clearest examples of non-cooperation, apparent power struggles and conflict-prone activities can be found between GPHA on the one hand and the Customs Division of the GRA, on the other hand," Col Damoah said.
He said the GHPA decides where and when a ship berths or discharges its cargo; where the cargo was removed to and where the cargo was "secured."
"Customs' ability to conduct examination of goods is determined by the readiness of GPHA staff whom an agent has to consult to position a container for examination of its contents by Customs officials," the Commissioner said.
"Customs are unable, in the port environment, to move goods to the State Warehouse due to insistence of officials of GPHA on payment of rent before removals. In effect the whole port activity appears to be a tango of war between officials of the GPHA and those of Customs much to the detriment of importers."
He said on the part of the Port Health Services, they were most often reluctant to accept an invitation by Customs to examine the wholesomeness of imported items speedily; stating that "They do so at their own time because as they say, they 'don't take orders' or 'instructions' from Customs."
Mrs Linda Ofori-Kwafo, the Executive Director, GII, said if the Government's vision of "Ghana Beyond Aid" agenda was to be realized, then the institutions responsible for revenue mobilization and utilisation would have to be more efficient.