New measures to enhance paperless operations justified

The paperless port system, which has been in operation since September 2017, has been fraught with poor implementation.  Freight forwarders say the system has not improved transactions at the ports, especially as paperwork continues to dominate their transactions.

This has come to the attention of government, and Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia has had cause to comment on the frustrations at the ports and has further directed that more measures will have to be adopted to cleanse the system.

For one, operations at the port are to be streamlined as at July 1st this year. Vice-President Bawumia announced at the 4th Edition of the Mobex Africa ICT Expo that the number of agencies undertaking joint inspections are to be reduced from the current 16 to 3.

Dr. Bawumia noted that concerted efforts are underway at the ports to circumvent the paperless system, both by Customs Officials of the GRA and some government officials. He went on to state that some go as far as demanding documents from importers for stamping etc., thereby defeating the purpose of the system which is designed to remove bottlenecks and facilitate trade at the ports.

We find it strange that Customs officials are demanding documents from importers when all relevant documents can be accessed online. The whole idea of digitising the economy is to improve efficiency and enhance trade facilitation; why then should some miscreants decide to derail the process and put in all manner of bottlenecks to frustrate the system and draw us back to the days when all manner of hurdles were placed in way of importers and exporters so that unaccounted-for monies could be extorted?

Bawumia added that there have also been reports of payments being made to Customs officials through mobile money channels to circumvent the paperless process. The paperless port system has brought significant gains – having improved the clearance of goods and services and raised government’s revenue.

It would therefore be unwise to sit by and watch old habits creep back into port operations, and hence the taskforce put in place to monitor the paperless system must maintain eternal vigilance and expose all nation-wreckers.

The three agencies expected to undertake the new directive are the Ghana Standards Board, GRA-Customs Division and the Food and Drugs Authority – as well as National Security or NACOB based on intelligence.

Thebftonline.com

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