The Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) will pilot the new UNIPASS trade facilitation tool at the Takoradi Port from next week, as it looks to implement what it describes as “the best end-to-end Customs management system available”.
Commissioner of Customs, Col. Kwadwo Damoah, who disclosed this at a sensitization workshop for journalists on the new system in Accra, indicated that the UNIPASS single window platform has a lot of benefits to offer both internal and external users;something the port community would attest to once the system is rolled out.
“We want to assure all stakeholders that we sink or swim together and therefore, in the national interest, whatever we have to do to ensure that we get the best qualitative, real value for money in any service provision, we will do it,” he said emphatically.
He also justified the need for the new system: “We are aware of the existing infrastructure for customs processes but this–[UNIPASS]–is the only one so far that offers end-to-end services starting from the beginning to the end.”
The stance of the GRA defies cautions from various circles within the maritime space and other civil society bodies on the need to stick with the existing single window in order not to severely disrupt trade and revenue flows.
Policy think-tank, IMANI Africa, has questioned why the ministries of Trade and Industry and Finance are bent on replacing the existing reliable customs and ports technologies with UNIPASS—an expensive and untested ports valuation system.
Critics of the UNIPASS have also cited the presumed distortions that the new system will bring to the shipping community, especially at a time that the ports’ stakeholders were getting in-tuned with current run by Westblue Consulting and GCNetcoupled with the impressive gains of the paperless port reforms.
But according to the Customs boss, the UNIPASS will be rolled out in a systematic, well-planned manner in line with ready infrastructure with additional infrastructure being provided based on the tests that have so far been conducted.
“Certainly, everything that is required by way of infrastructure will be in place by the time we are ready to rollout fully.”
UNIPASS is an electronic clearance system which computerizes Customs procedures and provides for the automation of the clearance process as a solution to overcome increased volumes in trade and travelers.
It encompasses five subordinate systems namely: single window system, clearance management system, cargo management system, information management system and an administrative system.
The new system is expected to reduce clearance cost and time in line with the World Customs Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. It also has an integrated risk management system that the profiles data companies and travelers so as to monitor behaviour and risk patterns.
Other enhanced features include expansion in payment methods to include transaction through digital platforms such as Visa, Momo, Mobile App as well as internet banking.