The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) on June 1, 2020 shut down the Ghana Community Network (GCNet) clearing system as the new Integrated Custom Management System (ICUM) popularly known as Unipass, took over.
This came after piloting the system at some ports including the Takoradi and the Tema Ports and training for stakeholders.
On Monday, a number of freight forwarders thronged the port to air their grievances of their inability to use the new system and therefore called on government to run the two systems concurrently instead of completely shutting down the old system of clearance which they had used for almost two decades.
"The two systems can operate hand in hand, we shouldn't have been standing here, ordinarily, we should have been in our offices working but if you sit in the office exactly what are you going to do because the system is not working", the freight forwarders complained.
They indicated that their expectation of having their documentation going through the system smoothly as promised by authorities, did not materialize as the system kept giving them error message when they tried inputting their information.
According to them, if the old system was running concurrently, they would have fell on that when encountered with such challenges with the Unipass.
"We are saying that we shouldn't have waited for this thing to have come to this level. All we were advocating was they should have run the system concurrently so that in an event that things happen the way they are happening now, we will fall on the old system and ensure it moves smoothly but right now they have shut down the old system completely and the new system is not able to hold the load".
Mr Listowell Lloyd Harris, a freight forwarder said "personally we submitted a CCVR (Customs Classification and Valuation Report) last week we were not able to pay the duty, now what is happening is if you go to the bank to pay it tells you the CCVR is invalid, meaning that the new system is unable to understand the CCVR we have generated in the old system so it was asking us to request for a new which will take at least a day"
Mr Harris said requesting for a new CCVR meant loss of revenue for government, and delay for their clients among other inconveniences adding that authorities must lean from past experiences to avoid such troubles whenever they wanted to change the system.
Colonel Kwadwo Damoah (Rtd), Commissioner of Customs Division of the GRA responding to the issues of the freight forwarders, encouraged them to make use of the system as according to him, the more the practice, the more they would be conversant with it like they were with the old system.
Col. Damoah (Rtd) said they were having the challenges because the freight forwarders instead of practicing with the new system before its full roll out, opted to use the old system which was running concurrently with the Unipass until June 1 because they were comfortable using that one.
He however stated that dedicated help desk with experienced officers had been put in place to help address and offer help to those having challenges at every stage of the clearing process and therefore urged them to make good use of the desk to solve their problems.
"We are aware that if you start any new thing you are likely to have one or two challenges so we concede you genuinely have some concerns that is why we have moved all the way from Accra to listen to you and find solutions to your problems. We anticipated this and therefore we have help desks where some of our experienced officers are already positioned to listen to you, know the types of problems and help solve them".
Mr Alan Kyeremateng and Mr Carlos Ahenkorah, Minister and Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry respectively, also visited the port and had closed door meeting with leadership of Customs on the challenges facing the rollout of the unipass system.