Importers to produce letters of credit, bank guarantee, before using bonded warehouses

Effective from next month, importers who are hoping to use government or private bonded warehouses would have to produce letters of credit and bank guarantees as additional requirements before accessing the facilities.

The introduction of the two new requirements is as a result of revenue losses due to massive abuse by warehouse operators and Customs officials.

Over 336 warehouses are currently in operation across the country including in Accra, Tema, Kumasi and Takoradi.

While GHS832.0 million was grossed from the system in 2013, the figure reduced in the following year, 2014, where GHS497.9 million was collected.

The old suspense regime enable traders to store their goods, either imported or locally manufactured, under Customs control for a period of time until they are ready to pay off import duties and other taxes.

The period of time within which their goods can be stored depend on the kind of items.

Perishables are kept for a period of 90 days whereas general goods are stored for a year and raw materials can be stored for two years.

They were required to produce only insurance bond.

However, this regime has not been effective to retrieve revenue due to massive abuse within the system where either warehouse operators remove the goods at the blind side of Customs officials or the officials connive with operators to release the goods to the traders without them paying the required duties.

But, speaking to Goldstreet Business after a stakeholders meeting, Richard Patrick Yawutse, Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Programmes at the Ghana Revenue Authority, (GRA) said the new regime is to improve compliance within the system and to generate more revenue from the system.

“This new introduction is coming in because there have been lots of abuse in the system such as the goods being taken out sometimes by the importers themselves without the knowledge of officers, or sometimes with the connivance of the officers.But if the letters of credit or the bank guarantee is instituted it covers the duty element,” he noted.

Yawutse explained further that “the mere fact that every year when we conduct audit, we find that there are outstanding balances and there are people who are owing and have evaded duty means there is some level of abuse.”

The introduction of the new requirements was first announced in the 2017 budget however, implementation was delayed to allow for stakeholder consultations.

Head of warehousing at the Customs division of the GRA, admitted to Goldstreet Business that they have not been efficient in the recovery of money from insurance companies through the insurance bonds.

According to her, the situation can improve if they have enough officials to guard the facilities.

“We have not done a lot to recover money from the insurance companies when the goods are not found. We go chasing the importers and officers who were in charge of the goods. You have one officer manning about 10 warehouses. There was a recent report that an operator had dug under the gate and took goods out through that hole,” she disclosed.

By Nana Oye Ankrah