The Special Surveillance and Monitoring Unit of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has embarked on an operation to seize vehicles whose owners have failed to pay their customs duties.
The exercise is particularly intended to identify vehicles that have come into the country from other West African countries under an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Temporary Vehicle Importation (TVI) Protocol but are violating such privileges.
The move is one of the many initiatives being rolled out by the GRA as part of its efforts to plug leakages in domestic revenue mobilisation.
As part of efforts to reduce revenue leakages, the Ministry of Finance, in collaboration with the GRA, set up the Special Surveillance and Monitoring Unit in 2017 to impound uncustomed vehicles.
Briefing the press at the beginning of the week-long exercise in Accra on Monday, the Director in charge of the Special Surveillance and Monitoring Unit of the GRA, Michael Sekyi, who led the operation, said 30,000 TVI vehicles that entered the country in 2017 were still illegally in the system.
During the exercise, reporters observed that in less than an hour, 10 of such vehicles had been impounded.
Under the ECOWAS Protocol, to which Ghana is a signatory, citizens of member countries of the sub-regional body are permitted to temporarily cross over to other countries in the sub-region with vehicles for temporary use for a period of two weeks, which could be extended to 90 days.
On arrival in a member country, the vehicle must be registered with the country’s Customs.
Sekyi said the GRA was carrying out the exercise with the aid of a new mobile application technology they had adopted to boost their operations.
“The mobile phone application software scans certain codes on the vehicle and generates automatically all customs requirements and status information about the vehicle,” he said.
Throwing more light on the use of technology and the exercise, Sekyi said it had come to the GRA’s notice that the TVI ECOWAS Protocol was being grossly abused, costing the state huge sums of revenue.
He added that with the help of the new application, the GRA was hoping to impound all such vehicles in order to meet its tax collection target.
Mr Sekyi further indicated that the impounded vehicles would be processed for detention as soon as possible, and while in detention, the GRA would come up with mutual terms and conditions with the owners of the vehicles to fulfil their customs obligations.
However, he said those who failed to comply would be sanctioned in accordance with the ECOWAS Treaty, which included fines and prosecution.
“Most of these vehicles have overstayed their allowed period under the treaty, but have still not taken steps to legalise them locally,” he said.
Mr Sekyi explained that the exercise was also a platform to embark on public education on the TVI treaty and its requirements, as well as the use of uncustomed vehicles.
He said many people had unknowingly bought cars whose importers had violated customs requirements and advised them to verify if the required customs duties had been paid before using them.
The Head of Communication and Public Affairs Unit of the GRA, Mr Johnson Menlah Yankey, advised owners or importers of such vehicles to ensure that they contacted the Customs Division to regularise their status before they used them in Ghana.