The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has initiated steps for the respective laws and regulations governing operations of port authorities be clearly defined and outlined, specifying the context of operations, powers, and limits for all port authorities.
According to the Division, the move will help avoid conflicting situations that exist between them and officials of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) as well as Ports Health Services in the clearing process at the ports.
This has become necessary due to the cumbersome nature of the clearing process which Customs attributes primarily to non-cooperation between port officials representing the various stakeholder institutions bordering on an outright power struggle as well as lack of commitment to service and abuse of public office.
Speeding up the movement of goods within the ports and reducing the cost of clearing and taking deliveries of goods from them fall in line with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) trade facilitation agreement.
Since international trade is a global matter, every country has to meet certain standards and principles of best practices to be able to remain competitive to attract the needed revenues and investments.
In a speech read on his behalf during a multi stakeholder business integrity forum organised by the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) in Accra last week, Commissioner of Customs, Col. Kwadwo Damoah (Rtd) said Customs ability to conduct examination of goods is determined by the speed and readiness of GPHA.
“Customs are unable to move goods to the state’s warehouse due to the insistence of the GPHA officials on payment of rent before removals. In effect, the whole port activity appears to be a tango of war between officials of GPHA and Customs Division much to the detriment of importers”, he reiterated.
Regarding the attitude of Port Health Services, Col. Damoah said they are most often reluctant to accept an invitation by Customs to examine the wholesomeness of goods. ” They do so at their own time because they believe they do not take orders from Customs”, he stressed.
However, while the Corporate Monitoring and Control Manager of GPHA, Mr. Garvin Amarvie initially insisted that his outfit had no issues with Customs, he subsequently voiced out a number of some challenges his outfit was not “happy” with.
According to him, one reason accounting for they not being happy was that the GRA had been issuing letters and policies concerning administration of the port directly to the Meridian Ports Services (MPS) – who are GPHA’s tenants – without GRA informing GPHA.
“This is inappropriate. When we sight a letter from somewhere else and then we see that the letter has gone to a tenant that is supposed to implement something that affects the whole port, I don’t think you GRA is being fair to GPHA.
Even though we have not been vociferous in some of these issues, we think that if it goes on, it will not make us run an efficient system; when after doing that you still expect us to create an enabling environment for cargo to go on”, he said.
Both GRA and GPHA, together with the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) are advocating for the establishment of clear Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to govern activities of all institutions at the ports.