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Ghana Ports set to switch on central single window, paperless transactions Sept 1

Whereas Nigerian maritime agencies are still wobbling back and forth on their respective single windows rather one central platform operations which is global best practices to ease business for port stakeholders, Ghana is now set to flag off seamless central single window powered by innovative paperless transactions at the nation’s ports from September 1, 2017.

The paperless transactions at the ports would be piloted by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority before it is finally rolled out in September.

This is coming after just four years of strategic planning and seamless follow up of the process.

Business Hilights recalls that in 2013, Ghana mulled the idea of going paperless, but implementation was not completely carried through because industry players felt uncomfortable with the new system, which was fraught with duplication of roles in some cases.

The GCNet is an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system that links all the major players in the clearing process.

The EDI allows for electronic interchange of business information using a standardised format; a process which allows one company to send information to another company electronically rather than with paper.

Business entities conducting business electronically are called trading partners.

West Blue Consulting, a business and IT-consulting and technology firm, who are providing technical support for the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, has enhanced the Pre-Arrival and Assessment Report System of the Ghana National Single Window.

Already, the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has started removing customs barriers along the country’s transit trade routes according to the spirit of the ongoing ports, entry points, and trade routes reforms.

A statement issued by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) weekend said all existing electronic platforms supporting paperless transactions at the ports are being upgraded to drive the successful implementation of the programme on schedule.

Already, Ministry in charge has began definition of roles as part of efforts to improve information sharing among stakeholders and enhance integrity among people who work at the ports and entry points.

However, Chairman of the Trade, Industry and Tourism Committee of Parliament, Mr. Daniel Nii Kwartei Titus-Glover, said in an interview that “There is the need for people importing into our country to be transparent”.

“They must hold their integrity because we need money to run this country, so if people under declare, making it difficult for the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority to come out with the right value, it makes it a difficult thing for all of us.

The lawmaker gave the highlights after the committee had met at the Parliament House with industry players at Ghana’s ports and harbours on how they are prepared to meet the September 1, 2017 deadline.

The speed to deliver the single window stemmed from an executive directive by the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia earlier in the year.

Dr. Bawumia had as part of government’s commitment to formalising the economy and to bring to the minimum the inefficiencies and man-made bottlenecks that have direct bearings on revenue collection, urged all government agencies at the country’s ports to switch to a paperless system by September 2017.

Stakeholder said the move is to halt collusion among importers, clearing agents and customs officials that exploit the existing system at the port to the disadvantage of the nation.

Relevant agencies including the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), Ghana Standards Authority, Food and Drugs Authority, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) West Blue and the Ghana Community Network System Services Limited (GCNet), met with the Trade, Industry and Tourism Committee in Parliament last week to update it on steps being taken to meet the deadline.

Participants at the paperless build up meeting include the Environmental Protection Agency, The Ghana Airport Company, the Veterinary Services Division and the Aviance Cargo Company.

Business Hilights recalls that Titus-Glover, who is also the Deputy Minister of Transport and MP for Tema East, said the pilot should prompt amendments towards the implementation of the new regime.

He added that “The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority has indicated that there will be a pilot programme which will involve all stakeholders. Based on that then we will see the way forward if there are certain challenges we will be able to identify them”.

Titus-Glover urged GCNet and West Blue to effectively collaborate and clearly define roles to avoid the seeming conflicts between the two agencies spearheading the scheme.

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