Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia
Vice President Bawumia is finding it difficult to comprehend what accounts for the unnecessary delays in clearing goods at the Tema and Takoradi ports.
Delivering the keynote address at the ‘Port Efficiency Conference’ in Accra yesterday which was put together by the Office of the President, he wondered why “we still have delays in the clearance of goods and the attendant costs such as demurrage and rent” at the ports.
It is estimated that in the year 2016 alone, shippers (importers) paid an estimated amount of $100 million in demurrage charges.
The last time a similar estimate was conducted in 2013, the demurrage amount was about $75 million.
But, the Vice President insisted “this is not the kind of revenue we need or want to build this country.”
For him, “it is a punitive cost, an inefficiency cost. It is an avoidable cost, and it only goes to demonstrate that shippers are not releasing containers to the shipping lines in good time.”
Apart from that, he said “there are other inefficiency and nuisance costs, including those used in ‘facilitating’ clearance through the Regulatory agencies and GRA Customs itself.”
These, according to him, do not only contribute greatly to the high cost of goods and services in the country, but also “render our exports uncompetitive, and most importantly lead to high dissatisfaction among port clients.”
He therefore stressed the belief that “these inefficiencies and man-made bottlenecks have direct bearing on the tax revenues collected at the ports.”
Aside that, the Vice President said “the inefficiencies encourage collusion among some importers, clearing agents and Customs Officers to exploit the system to the detriment of tax revenue.”
That, he said was the reason for government’s introduction of the Destination Inspection Scheme, and the single window systems to address the issue of efficiencies at the port.
That notwithstanding, Dr Bawumia noted with worry that “there are still bottlenecks and there is a sense that the problems of cargo clearance at the ports remain major concerns”, insisting “the issue of an ineffective customs valuation system still needs to be addressed.”
He therefore charged participants at the ‘Port Efficiency Conference’ to focus on the issues of commercial invoices for imports and how to develop a system that will address that challenge once and for all.
“Let us also be mindful that just throwing money and equipment at challenges is not always the best approach to problem solving. We need an understanding of processes, how to get systems to work together, and just as important, how we manage the human factors that make things happen or not happen”, he charged.
On his part, Transport Minister, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah noted with worry that “despite efforts by the GPHA in collecting payments for the services it renders to its clients, like every human institution, its efforts at revenue mobilization can be improved.”
He thus stressed the need for what he called ‘heavy infusion of IT to improve the systems’ and ‘marketing of the ports to increase cargo’.
He identified a number of operational challenges facing the country’s ports which has led to high cost of doing business, as well as revenue leakages and losses.
They included the high number of state institutions involved in the clearing process, high port user charges compared to the sub-region, limited port capacity, congestion at the port, delays in the clearing process leading to high cost of business and revenue leakages.
For him, “Ghana does not have to re-invent the wheels but to learn from best practice from elsewhere.”
By Charles Takyi-Boadu, Presidential Correspondent