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3 Single Window Companies -Whose Interest Does It Serve?
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Despite the rolling out of single window paperless transactions at Ghana’s ports with two companies, a third company has just been announced to also operate single window, raising fundamental questions.

Currently, Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) and West Blue Consulting Ghana Limited are operating the national single window.

However, barely two weeks after paperless port was said to have increased revenue generation, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) announced plans to deploy a new trade facilitation tool – UNIPASS Customs Technology, which will be a third single window platform.

On the same day that the UNIPASS announcement was made, Customs World, a subsidiary of Ports Customs and Free Zones Corporation (PCFC) Dubai, also announced that it has signed an agreement to take over West Blue Ghana Limited, the company engaged for the operation of the National Single Window and Risk Management System in Ghana.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry’s announcement of the UNIPASS deal comes as a surprise because a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry is on record to have said Ghana is too small to operate two single windows, which is the truth.

Now, the Ministry of Trade has awarded a 10-year third single window contract to Ghana Link Network Services Limited – which has Customs UNIPASS International Agency (CUPIA) of Korea Customs Service as its overseas partner.

The contract, which was signed on March 29, 2018 and published on the website of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), empowers UNIPASS, which is yet to start operations, to do the same job already being done by Customs World and GCNet.

It must be noted that anytime new technical support services are deployed, it is accompanied with reports of increase in revenue generation to justify the investment.

However, when this is being done by multiple agencies, the compensation paid also increases significantly.

Needles compensation cost to the state

There is no doubt that contracting more than one company to provide Single Window Services costs the nation more in compensation.

Therefore, Ghana working with three different companies, all of which brag about providing world-class technical support services for Single Window operations, simply means paying millions as compensation, some of which could have been saved when the operator is only one.

Ghana Link and its overseas partner are going to earn 0.75 per cent of total proceeds at the port.

Government will pay this amount in addition to what is being paid to Customs World and GCNet when the work can be done by just one single window company to save government money.

The port remains the single largest revenue generation point for the state, and paying multiple companies to do the same work raises critical questions.

5-year contract with Customs World-Dubai

Government has a five-year contract with West Blue Consulting (Customs World, Dubai), which began in 2015.
GCNET has valid contract.

There is also an existing contract with GCNET, which the Trade Ministry signed on behalf of government.

As a prelude to operate the paperless system, GCNet and Customs World were made to integrate their systems to provide efficient service to traders and block revenue leakages at the ports.

Freight forwarders demand answers on 3rd single window

The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) wants government to come clear on a new agreement it signed with Ghana Link for the company to operate the single window project at the ports.

These things do not work well for business at all. There must be some certainty in the environment otherwise the signal that we are sending to business is bad,” President of GIFF, Kwabena Ofosu Appiah stated.

Diplomatic relations

As many serious countries have concentrated their foreign policy on economic relations, any fallout from the decision by government to engage both Dubai and Korea could badly affect Ghana’s relations with any of the two countries that feel peeved.

The politics

Customs the world over are responsible for the classification and valuation of imported cargo for purposes of revenue mobilisation and clearance.

This is even so when they are solely responsible for overseeing the cargo clearance regime at the ports.
GCNet and Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) were engaged during President J.A. Kufuor’s administration to do classification and valuation.

The story of GCNet

Since 2002, GCNet has been providing e-Solutions to government by offering electronic platforms for revenue mobilisation and trade facilitation, easing trade processes with system availability nationwide to be the pioneer single window operator in the country.

The story of DICs

In many regards, the destination inspection scheme introduced in Ghana in early 2000 was meant to expedite trade transactions while safeguarding trade revenue for government.

The scheme, since its introduction, was managed by DICs with support from the GCNet system and Customs, through the Ghana Customs Management System.

Classification and valuation knowledge transfer

The strategy was to second Customs officers to work with DICs, and in the process the DICs will transfer knowledge to the Customs officers.

And when enough capacity is built, Customs would take over classification and valuation from the DICs.

Some Customs officers jump ship

However, several senior Customs officers seconded to the DICs ended up resigning from Customs to become permanent workers of the DICs as the conditions of service offered by the DICs were far better than that of customs.

This development frustrated the knowledge transfer process.

The story of West Blue

However, after 15 years of working with the DICs, government, on September 1, 2015, dispensed with their services, handing over the task to Customs.

In place of the DICs, a new system, dubbed National Single Window System, was implemented by West Blue and GCNet Services, in partnership with other scanning companies.

The government’s decision not to renew the licence of DICs happened during the administration of President John Dramani Mahama, and was seen in some quarters as politically motivated.

At the time, government attempted to get rid of GCNet, but was not successful because GCNet had a valid contract.

When President Nana Akufo-Addo’s government assumed office, a process to operate a paperless system was set in motion.

The story of Customs World

As part of the process, Customs World, a subsidiary of Ports Customs and Free Zones Corporation (PCFC) Dubai, was brought in to provide technical assistance that integrated GCNet and West Blue to achieve paperless system.

Less than one month after the integration, Customs World signed an agreement to take over West Blue.

The story of UNIPASS

The Ministry of Trade and Industry announced that a new company, named UNIPASS, a South Korean Customs Management System, a third single window, has already sought approval from the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) to engage Messrs Ghana Link Network Services Limited to have the technology deployed.
Now, a 10-year contract has been signed.

In Ghana, the concept of destination inspection was introduced by the government in 2000 to replace the pre-shipment inspection system, which involved the inspection of imports before shipment from the country of supply.

Destination inspection is a concept which was introduced to enhance Customs functions as a stop-gap measure while waiting for reforms and modernisation.

They are BIVAC International, Gateway Services Limited, Ghana Link Network Services, Webb Fontaine Ghana Limited and Inspection Control Service.

While more than 500 employees of the DICs lost their jobs, the move was seen as an opportunity to save the country millions of cedis that went into the coffers of the DICs.
Source: The Finder

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