Ghanaian importers and clearing agents have expressed displeasure about government’s decision to abrogate the contracts of the two existing Single Window operators—GCNet and WestBlue- and hand over the country’s single window operations to Ghana Link and its overseas partner CUPIA Korea to run a new system christened UNIPASS effective March 1.
According to them, this act by government will not only create chaos at the port but erode all the gains made since the introduction of the paperless port regime championed by Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia.
Despite the improved revenue generation and seamless clearing of goods at the ports, made possible by the two existing vendors, the Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo, in a letter dated 26th February 2020, directed freight forwarders, clearing agents and other stakeholders in the country, to use the UNIPASS system to clear their goods from Sunday March 1, 2020.
Portions of the letter suggest that the government is willing to incur the cost of abrogating the contracts of the two existing vendors.
GCNet’s contract ends in 2023 while that of West Blue expires at the end of 2020.
“In a confirmation letter dated 5th of December 2018, government respectfully requested you to submit for discussion the terms of transition. We note that your firm is yet to submit the terms of transition you will find satisfactory.”
“In view of this government would be making payment that takes into account the unspent years of your contract and also ensures the best value of the public money,” portions of the letter read.
However, the stakeholders have warned that this decision will cause serious problems for government and all stakeholders, explaining that the UNIPASS system is untested.
They have therefore asked government withdraw the letter with immediate effect, stating “UNIPASS is not ready”.
President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), Mr. Edward Akrong, in a separate interviews with journalists said: “UNIPASS system it’s all a mess because even we tried the URL and it was not working, not to talk about other challenges we have had with their so called superior system.
“If we do not do this right, there is going to be pure recipe for chaos, there will be a serious disruption. The government must withdraw the letter immediately, UNIPASS is not ready”
He quizzed “What is broken that you would want to fix? There is absolutely no problem with the current system. You have over 10, 000 to 15,000 declarants hitting your system at the same time, so there has to be serious stress test to make sure that they can withstand all that pressure. So far, we have not seen any report to say that all these stress tests have been done.
Importers who were at Takoradi port on February 21, 2020 for the piloting of the UNIPASS system were left disappointed.
This is because Ghana Link and its overseas partner CUPIA Korea could not demonstrate and successfully pilot their acclaimed newly-built superior system.
“No training or piloting has been done. We were told some piloting was done in Aflao but I can tell you that it did not happen and Takoradi the same thing,” Mr. Akrong stated.
No Superior System
It has emerged that Ghana Link and its foreign partner, CUPIA of Korea Customs Service claim that they have a new superior single window system is a mirage, as per its contract with Government of Ghana, it will rather need Ghana Community Network Service Limited (GCNet) and West Blue Consulting to handover their systems to them before they can start operations.
This means that without GCNet and West Blue, UNIPASS cannot operate or function.
GCNet threatens Shut Down
Meanwhile GCNet has threatened to shut down its system and head straight to court to demand an estimated US$120million in judgment should the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) go ahead to implement the new UNIPASS trade facilitation system at the ports.
The figure includes, among other things, the cost of demobilizing the company’s technological systems and physical infrastructure across the country.
The stance of the company, this paper has gathered, was in response to a letter from a senior government official seeking to buy out GCNet out of their current contract with government, which is due to expire in 2023, in order for GCNet to hand over its tried and tested system to UNIPASS.
“We are currently at the crossroads for doing the unthinkable in the country’s ports; we have invested into so much into technology, created so much employment opportunities and consistently helped to shore up revenue from 2002 till date.
“It does not augur well for a country that is looking for investments, if it cannot respect the sanctity of contracts,” a source said.
The source disclosed that, the moves by UNIPASS is a clear indication that they have no ‘superior system’ but is only seeking to profit from what the two main Single Window service providers, GCNet and WestBlue, have done over the years.