The Integrated Customs Management System ICUMS, is now being put to use at Ghana’s ports, including the largest one, Tema where it is being piloted too. The Ghana Revenue Authority, in its public announcement on the use of ICUMS and its directives on how it shall be applied, has presented it as a new import facilitation platform of the Authority’s making.
It is not.
Simply put it is basically the widely discredited and opposed UNIPASS, being reintroduced yet again, but this time under a different name in a surreptitious move that is unbecoming.
It is unsurprising to all those who have followed the unsavoury saga of the replacement of the eminently successful, and widely applauded single window trade facilitation platform deployed by GC Net and West Blue Consulting, with a repeatedly failed one hitherto known as UNIPASS, that the change of name has not been accompanied by a change of fortunes; ICUMS has got off to a troubled start, evidenced by the public protests against it conducted by shipping agents in Takoradi yesterday.
While this newspaper has closely reported the several false starts endured by Ghana’s shipping community because of UNIPASS, we have stopped short of directly accusing its promoters and proponents of bad faith with regards to the best interests of the state. Other critics have not been nearly so charitable.
Now, even our own sense of charity is wearing thin. Not just because government remains committed to replacing a proven hugely successful trade platform with one that is equally proven only in its shortcomings, and at higher user cost as well. But because of the surreptitious manner in which it is now presenting ICUMS as if it has nothing to do with the clearly discredited UNIPASS. In this era of transparency in public governance this is not good conduct.
Like other critics of the introduction of the new trade facilitation platform we are yet to be convinced as to how the change will be beneficial to Ghana. Certainly if government can explain its benefits, most critics, this newspaper inclusive, will change its stance from opposing it to publicly supporting it. If that can simply be explained then we would enthusiastically take on whoever still opposes it as narrow, selfish, vested interests. Unfortunately we cannot do that as at now, in clear conscience, because we still have not been told convincingly why the new platform with all its continuous operational failings so far, as well as added costs to users, is worth all the problems it is causing shippers and their agents, when no major faults have been identified with the outgoing platform.
Indeed, as we understand it right now, the only reason why government might be so insistent on going ahead with a platform that is not working nearly as well as the one being replaced, is that the contract – which was sole sourced – stipulates that Ghana will have to pay over US$97 million in compensation if the agreement is terminated, or even if government fails to facilitate its success. While we would not want such a drain on the public purse, we wonder how and why such a clause was put into a sole-sourced contract in the first place.
We recommend that government puts its efforts into explaining why it is so adamant on using the new platform under whatever name; we would be only too happy to convey the explanation as long as it is credible, which we fervently still hope is the case.