The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has laid down three mechanisms aimed at tackling smuggling of goods brought into the country through various unapproved routes.
The mechanisms include seizure and confiscation of the goods, impounding the truck used to convey the goods and surcharge or prosecution of the driver, accomplices and owner of the truck which could lead to prison sentences.
The move is geared towards eliminating the practice of smuggling which would in turn cause all importers to use the approved routes for their businesses as this is expected to enhance the GRA’s collection of taxes at the ports.
Increasing incidence of diversion of trade away from the Tema port by smuggling goods through Togo has largely left Ghana at a disadvantage.
Records available to the Authority indicate that the volume of all imports through the Tema port in the last three years had increased by just 4.9 percent while the Lome port in Togo had an increase in cargo throughput exceeding 300 percent within the same period under review. The goods at the Togo port are later diverted and smuggled through unapproved routes into Ghana because they are not meant for Togo in the first place.
In an effort to making Ghana’s ports competitive which would in turn result in the reduction or elimination of smuggling, the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia last week announced a 50 percent reduction for benchmark values of all imported goods and 30 percent reduction for home delivery value of vehicles.
The reduction follows complaints and petitions from importers and stakeholders about the high import duties which have made smuggling goods into Ghana from neighbouring countries a preferred choice for a number of importers.
It was as a result of this continuous development the GRA embarked on a familiarization tour with traders, dealers and union members at the Makola market and Abossey Okai spare parts enclave in Accra, to sensitize them on measures the Authority is taking to tackle the menace. It was also to find out from the traders whether they have started experiencing the benefits of the expected reductions in the prices of all imported items, as a consequence of the reductions in benchmark values used in assessing import duties to be paid on them. .
The Commissioner-General of the GRA, Mr. Emmanuel Kofi Nti said the Authority will not relent in its effort to curtail the smuggling of goods into the country.
“If smuggling is curtailed, we will be able to have enough revenue for the state”, he reiterated.
In separate responses, union leaders and representatives at both the Makola market and Abossey Okai spare parts enclave noted that the smuggling business is largely perpetrated by foreigners, reiterating that they have done continuous sensitization and warned their members not to engage in the practice.
In the West Africa sub-region, recorded intra-regional trade is small, but smuggling appears to be pervasive, despite regional integration schemes intended to promote trade.
With the African Free Continental Trade Area agreement about to be implemented, one critical area stakeholders need to work on to ensure full benefit of the agreement is smuggling of goods across borders.
By Dundas Whigham