The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Duffour, has taken the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) to task and challenged its leadership and workers to rid the service of its perceived corruption.
In addition to its corrupt image, the minister also chided the service for failure to meet its revenue collection targets, saying nothing could explain the sloppy performance it registered. The usually calm Finance Minister expressed his frustration during a surprise visit to the service's largest collection point at the Tema Harbour.
He expressed regret at the frequent negative reports of corruption and malfeasance within the service and told the Commissioner of CEPS and the entire staff to be proactive and boldly come up with interventions to raise the sunken image of the service and win back public trust and confidence.
The Commissioner of CEPS, Mr Richard Kumah Lanyon, told reporters later that the inability of the service to meet its revenue collection targets was largely due to issues such as the downward revision of petroleum taxes, exemptions and the global recession that had affected the volume and value of imports into the country.
In his admonition, Mr Duffour had said, "Much as the government accepts that there are logistical and technical challenges hindering your delivery, the growing trend of negative conduct and reportage go on to retard the country's development, thus leaving the citizens in poverty."
He noted that the Tema collection of the service accounted for 55 per cent of the country’s total domestic revenue mobilisation but the service failed to achieve the set target, which he said dwindled massively last year to about 40 per cent, a situation he described as spelling doom for the country's growth.
Dr Duffour was at the port for a day's working visit to familiarise himself with the revenue collection modules of CEPS. He expressed regret that allegations of corruption, malfeasance and massive fraud in the service continued to make headlines, quizzing, "Why can't you go out and embark on a massive image cleansing exercise that will go into restoring the service’s trust among the public?"
"It always saddens me to see my picture in the papers each time unspeakable publications about the service get to the public, just because 1 am your sector minister," he lamented.
During an interaction with the workers, some of them expressed worry over the outsourcing of some of the core functions of CEPS, such as valuation and classifications, to private companies, a situation they described as having a toll on their set targets and charged the government to revisit the issue to ensure that the country derived maximum benefit from destination inspection.
The minister also paid a courtesy call on the Director-General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Mr Nestor Paul Galley, and assured him of the government's plans to transform the port 'into a hub in the West African sub-region. Mr Galley told the minister that the implementation of the axle load regulation which began in June 2009 had brought about a drastic reduction in vehicular traffic at the port.
According to him, container toll had also dropped by 10 per cent, thereby affecting the authority's overall profit level and, therefore, the level of dividend to the government. He called for government's support towards the port's development through the granting of soft loans to facilitate its activities.
Source: Daily Graphic
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