Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia
Recently, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia announced that from September 1 – which is three days away – the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government is going to commence a policy called ‘Paperless Ports Clearing’ system. He said it is a robust system that enables customs clearance to be carried out in four hours.
He also announced that the government was introducing the First Port Rule in Ghana, which would provide the avenue for the duty on goods destined for countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to be paid here in Ghana. This, he said, should provide a check on the dumping of goods destined for our neighbouring countries on us (Ghana).
We welcome this laudable initiative, which is being practised in many advanced countries like Dubai where importers are enjoying quality and efficient services; and we strongly believe that the attempt to replicate it in Ghana will open the economy up to ensure rapid growth.
We understand that there is currently a test trial of the project towards the September commencement.
Under this new policy, Customs officials, Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs), agents, shipping lines, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Meridian Ports Services (MPS), Tema Container Terminal, other terminal operators, courier providers, and scan operators in the value chain are mandated to work together to generate instant results at the ports.
As usual, there have been some agitations from some freight forwarders and clearing agents, but we believe they should exercise some level of restraint and allow the system to work for the benefit of their clients and the country as a whole.
We should not forget that the public over the years has been dissatisfied because of the overall procedures, inexplicable charges, delays, lack of transparency and the complexity in port operations.
The current system replacing the lethargic one, we understand, is going to reduce the number of hands mandated to inspect imported goods. The joint mandatory inspection will become the order of the day.
The fact that it is going to be paperless, in our humble opinion, does not suggest that it is going to weed out the important work of agents and freight forwarders from the system. In fact, it is rather not going to enhance the value of all those who are in the business of clearing goods on behalf of their clients as a senior customs official remarked last week. The paperless transaction will instead speed up the clearing processes at the ports and increase the revenue to the State.
It is clear that the target of this noble initiative is not job cuts, but to make clearing of goods at the ports easier and more comfortable. They joy of bringing in more goods and the fact that it will help freight forwarders and clearing agents to be clearing goods within a couple of hours – some say four hours – should be good news to everybody.
We should not forget that in adopting the e-clearance system, the much-talked-about issue of corruption is going to be reduced drastically as the processes that lead to payments at every stage are going to be centralized.
As the vice president said, we are moving from a system of applying sub-standard and unnecessary complex procedures at the port to a system which meets international standards. We need value for money as a nation and we are going to insist on that.