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WestBlue consulting confident Ghana will meet deadline for going paperless

Chief Executive Officer of WestBlue Consulting, technical partners of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Ms. Valentina Mintah is confident Ghana will meet the timelines for going paperless. Vice president Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia at the recently held port efficiency conference at the instance of his office indicated the quest of government to see a 100 percent migration to paperless transactions in the ports of Ghana by September 2017.

This he believes will ensure the elimination of corrupt practices and also inject some amount of efficiency in the clearance process and port operations in general.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the M&TD, Ms. Mintah was optimistic that the time lines will be met.

‘’I believe we can meet the timeline with the condition that existing systems must integrate and existing systems must share their data on a-need-to-know basis with the agencies that require it or the entities that require it. I believe we can certainly do that but we need that political will which has been established with the vice president. So now from a technical and a functional point of view, we all have to sit down and understand the process flow, look at the integration points, look at the data elements that each party needs and then make sure that all the systems come together’’ she opined.

According her places where there are no existing systems, it will imperative to introduce new systems there so that the country can realise a true paperless regime. Ms. Mintah further noted that this will cover the areas of import, export and transit trade.

Incentivising compliant shippers

Ms. Mintah also called for measures to be put in place to incentivise compliant shippers who play by the rules and ensure that they submit genuine and accurate documents and information for processing.

According to her, there is the need for some amount of predictability in the system and that compliant shippers must be given some preferential treatment in terms of expediting the clearance of their cargo quickly.

‘’ You need predictability in the system. So if I am a compliant trader, I need to know that when I bring in my goods it can actually be expedited and I don’t need to queue up with all the bad guys to go through the system’’ she noted.

She explained that the Authorised Economic Operator of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) paves way or gives the leeway to traders who are compliant to have their goods moved directly to their homes and follow up inspections, if necessary can be done at the trader or shippers’ premises.

That system she pointed out is akin to the gold card that Ghana has. This plus other incentives including the granting of rebates, which is at the policy level she believes will ensure that traders strive to play by the rules by doing the right and proper things.

Over invoicing and under declaration et’al

Ms. Mintah also reiterated the call for shippers and traders to be compliant at all times and avoid the illegal acts of under invoicing, mis-discription and under declaration among others which she argues tend to make the system slow and comes along with the age long issue of delays and high cost of doing business in the ports.

‘’ It’s about compliance. If from day one the importer and the agents put in compliant documents, then customs will ensure that those documents sail through because there will be no anomalies. But you need third party data sources like the manifest or the export data from the exporting country to check to see if indeed what is being presented is correct. And that is where you can have delays so it starts with compliance. If we can have a good compliance base, then you know that say 80% or 90% of your importers or exporters are compliant and then you can focus on the 10 or 20% that are not compliant but push to try and get them to be compliant as well’’ she intimated.

Madam Mintah also stressed the need to engage such intransigent traders to find out whether they truly and genuinely have challenges or they are shying away from high duties and taxes.

According to her if the challenge has to do with high duties and taxes, then it will be imperative to have a policy decision to look at how to harmonise and improve the tax or duty rates. She sums it up by noting that the issues are policy, technical and human in nature and must be addressed.


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