It takes 5 weeks to clear a car from ports – Freight forwarders expose ICUMS

The government has been asked to intervene in the sorry situation at the Tema Ports where it now takes 5 weeks, (35 freaking days), to clear a single-vehicle under the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS trade facilitation system.

Before ICUMS took over the ports, it took just four hours for such clearance to be done using the Paperless Ports Clearance system.

This clear collapse of the ease of doing business and disruption in trade facilitation has been blamed on the Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS where the electronic paperless ports clearance system has become nonexistent and replaced with a lot of paper works, hard copy documentation, and human interference.

“We have gone back to the situation of printing all documents. There are no SLAs (Service Level Agreements) with which one can define how long the clearance process is supposed to take. It has become normal to clear vehicles within a 5-week window which is unacceptable”, the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) noted in a presentation paper submitted to the government on the avoidable challenges in trade facilitation caused by Nick Dando’s Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS.

The document which broke down the ICUMS challenges into the district by district and touched on all entry points in the country said apart from the fact that clearing a single car now has a 5-week window period, the ICUMS system has caused a lot of confusion with stakeholders running between the Tema Ports, NICK HOTEL and other places in and around Tema just to seek on existent solutions to their ordeal.

More chaos

GIFF pointed out further that under Nick Danso’s Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS “the Call Centre has virtually become non-productive as Agents move from The GPHA towers to the Customs Long Room and Nick Hotel in search of solutions to problems. This cannot be normal. It only points to inadequate training, systemic challenges, non-user friendliness of the system, and that the business processes in the system have not been properly mapped.

“Cargo can be gated out of MPS Terminal 3, Carried-In and Gate-In confirmed at GJT, and subsequently allow for a successful manifest matching, and yet cargo is physically not received at GJT until after about four days.

“Fees like interest charge, SWH (state warehouse rent) are neither user nor system defined. One will then have to resort to a remark in the system by Officers to go back to the Accounts section for further issuance of tax bills for these payments. It is interesting to note that these tax bills do not state the reason for the payment. It should also be noted that these time-bound fees become automatic if acceptance and valuation of declarations stay more than 2 weeks”

It said under Nick Danso’s Ghana Link/UNIPASS-ICUMS “another major calculus problem is that of declarations with duty exempt status. The tax base amount for VAT in these situations is flawed and this has led to improper duty payments which will give rise to future litigation and refund requests.

“Default freight station being GJT for containerized vehicles without room for Shipping lines and Consolidators to change freight station to Safebond when vehicles are transferred to Safebond.

“Hence, Officers/Preventive at Safebond do not have access to gate out consignments. Resolving this requires Agents going back and forth to GJT and Safebond, frustrating trade, and leading to the cost of terminal rent charges.

“Declaration created an assessment accepted by Declarant A can as well be created with same Bill of Lading by Declarant B without any red flags by the system”, GIFF pointed out.

Last week, GIFF wrote to the government of Ghana, through the Office of the Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo-Marfo, pleading for a committee to be formed to find solutions to these challenges.

It said the delays are not a fault of importers, clearing agents, and the trading public yet they are the ones being asked to pay punitive fees for the delays.

This situation, GIFF, noted is unfair and unacceptable and its members are fast running out of patience.

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