IMANI Ghana, a policy think tank, has called on the government to reconsider its decision on the takeover of the single window operations at Ghana’s ports by UNIPASS.
According to IMANI, the untested UNIPASS system, when deployed, would disrupt the paperless system, destroy the gains chalked up so far and the government would lose millions of dollars at the ports.
The IMANI boss, Mr Franklin Cudjoe, in a statement, said the impact of UNIPASS on the trading community and revenue generation for the government had been bemoaned by many users of the ports.
Those users had complained that the UNIPASS system was not newer than or superior to what was being used currently at the ports, after it had been demonstrated to them by CUPIA of Korea Customs Services.
According to the Trade Ministry, the introduction of UNIPASS was expected to make the Ghana National Single Window (GNSW) programme more comprehensive, with a clearance management system, a cargo management system, an information management system and an administration system.
The IMANI statement, however, said: “All these functions are available on the existing systems. In fact, these are the Ghana Integrated Cargo Clearance System (GICCS), the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) on GCNet platform and the Pre-Arrival Assessment Reporting System (PAARS), the Customs House Agents Management System (CHAMS), the Joint Inspection Management Information System (JIMIS) and the Risk Management System (RMS) on the West Blue Platform.”
UNIPASS operations to cost more
It said the attempt by Ghana Link Service to take over single window operations from West Blue Consulting and GCNet at the ports would cost the country more.
That, it said, was because Ghana Link, with its overseas partners, CUPIA Korea Customs Service, would provide the trade facilitation and Customs Management System at a 0.75 per cent fee, per their 10-year sole sourced contract with the Ministry of Trade.
That figure is extremely higher than what the existing vendors, West Blue Consulting and GCNet, are currently receiving as a fee.
West Blue Consulting currently earns only 0.28 per cent, which is less than half of UNIPASS’ 0.75 per cent fees.
The GCNet earns 0.4 per cent, and so the two existing vendors providing single window operations in Ghana together are taking 0.68 per cent, which is far below what UNIPASS is going to take (0.75 per cent).
“In the knowledge of the Trade Facilitation Agreement that Ghana just ratified, specifically to the Article on the Disciplines on Fees and Charges, Ghana has given notification as to the number of years needed to regularise its fees and charges regime to reflect that of the WTO-TFA. Why would a leading ministry in this discussion sign a 10-year contract whose fee structure (ad valorem) contravenes the stipulations of the agreement?” the IMANI statement asked.
“It took two years for West Blue and GCNeT to integrate and work cohesively. It is a wonder how long the transition period will be for UNIPASS, whose credentials in the space are still unknown to integrate the existing system, if at all necessary,” it added.
The Economic Management Team, headed by the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, after listening to all major port stakeholders who had concerns, suspended the implementation of UNIPASS in 2019 due to the inability of the promoters to demonstrate superior value and integrity of their technology.
“However, its promoters and assigns are reported to be erecting valuation equipment at some of our borders, alongside those of the more reliable GCNet”, the IMANI statement said.
“By the nature of its antecedents, its potential to severely disrupt trade and revenue flows is certain. Our advice to the government will be to shelve UNIPASS until its promoters have demonstrated value far and above existing systems,” it said.
Meanwhile, UNIPASS has been sued by West Blue for intellectual property breaches, essentially copying its software illegally.