According to IMANI, Ghana seemed to be rushing into something serious and complex, without enough contemplation and preparation.In a statement copied to the Daily Graphic yesterday, IMANI said just last Thursday, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in his State of the Nation Address, touted the paperless clearance system at the ports as one of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government’s achievements.
It, therefore, implored the government to be careful about the move, saying: “We should be careful throwing out the hard work of many governments, starting in earnest from the establishment of the GCNeT and West Blue systems which had issues but which had also seen a lot of improvement over time.”
IMANI made the observation in a paper reviewing the trade facilitation agreement between the government of Ghana and the Ghana Link Network Services Limited for the provision of a fully integrated trade facilitation and customs management system.
IMANI observed that the contract covering the take-over of single window operations at the ports by Ghana Link and its overseas partner, CUPIA Korea, was quite simplistic.
“The present arrangement looks like the government is handing over the contract ‘on a silver platter’, at no evident cost, to the contractor herein, and then also grants them generous terms and wide latitude to operate, without proving either their capability or producing proof upfront of what they bring in terms of investment and other resources. This will, no doubt, attract suspicions of undue influence,” it said.
The Ministry of Trade, in 2018, awarded a 10-year sole-sourced contract to Ghana Link Network Services Limited, with its overseas partner, CUPIA Korea Customs Service, to provide trade facilitation and Customs management system (UNIPASS).
IMANI believes the UNIPASS contract, in its brevity, still gives much space to the rights of Ghana Link and the responsibilities of the Ghana Government and penalties attendant to default on the part of the Ghana Government.
“Not sufficient space is allotted to the responsibilities of the contractor (Ghana Link) and the penalties for it failure,” it said.
IMANI pointed out that there was no liability assumed by the contractor (Ghana Link) for all the assets and operations it had been given, adding: “At a minimum, one would expect a certain minimum investment by the contractor and a performance bond or something similar to assure the Government of Ghana that it is covered and will not be the loser if things go wrong.”
“If the Ghana Government sought independent objective legal advice on this, it is likely it would have been advised to allow UNIPASS to make a competitive bid against the existing system and prove why it must take over the system, plus the rewards of such a move,” it said.
No new superior system
According to IMANI, Ghana Link and its overseas partner, CUPIA Korea, made the government to believe that they had a superior system to the current vendors, GCNeT and West Blue, arguing rather that after almost two years of getting the sole-sourced contract, Ghana Link had not been able to deliver on its promise to build a superior system to deploy.
The think tank said it had, however, emerged that Ghana Link did not have a new superior system and that it would rather need GCNet and West Blue to hand over their systems to it before it could start operations.
The Trade Ministry, in signing the 10-year sole-sourced contract, committed to hand over GCNet and single window operations to UNIPASS. This was contained in the Trade Facilitation Agreement made on March 29, 2018 between the government of Ghana, acting through the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Ghana Link Services Limited.
The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority has so far deployed resources and manpower to the Takoradi Port to pilot the UNIPASS clearance system, effective last Friday.
The UNIPASS is a new port clearing system that processes documents and payments through one window, which the Customs Division says is a departure from the previous system where valuation and classification and risk management and payment were handled by different entities.