Customs charged to act as trade facilitators

Haruna Idrisu, Minister for Trade and IndustryHaruna Idrisu, Minister for Trade and IndustryThe Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, has urged customs officials at the country’s ports to act as trade facilitators in addition to their duties as compliance officials.

Consequently, he has directed them to ensure that imported goods do not stay beyond 72 hours without clearance to reduce  congestion at  the ports.

The minister made this call when he, together with his colleague Minister of Transport, Madam Dzifa Attivor, and a Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr Cassiel Forson, paid a surprise visit to the Tema Harbour on Tuesday.

The visit  was neccessitated by moves by the three ministries to ascertain the challenges facing the ports and finding solutions to them.

There has been reports of heavy congestion at the ports due to the delays in the clearance of goods.

The situation is said to have forced many ships carrying loads of goods bound for the landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali to divert their course to neigbouring ports in Togo and Cote d Ivoire.

“You must act as trade facilitators apart from your core duties as compliance officers who validate documents and that is why you need to ensure that goods are cleared from the port within 72 hours to reduce the congestion,” Mr Iddrisu said.

He said there was the need for a complaints unit to be set up within the ports to allow importers to express their grievances when they faced challenges at the ports.

For his part, Mr Iddirsu said the government was considering a review of the scanning regime to replace existing scanners at the ports with 3G scanners to facilitate the clearance of goods from the ports.

The Trade and Industry minister, said efforts were being made to ensure a review of the bonded warehousing regime to seal loopholes which caused revenue leakages.

Revenue collection

In the area of revenue collection, Mr Forson, challenged the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to ensure that customs and excise revenue collection at the port was increased.

The customs and excise revenue collections form about 40 per cent of the total tax revenue for the country.

Between January and June 2013, actual customs revenue collections amounted to Gh¢2,491.80 million as compared with the Gh¢2,243.97 million collected the same period last year.

According to the deputy minister, much as there seemed to be marginal increase, considering the impact of inflation and the depreciation of the cedi, the gain might be insignificant, hence the need for the GRA to double up its efforts.

In its quest to rake in  more revenue from the ports, the government recently introduced a one and two per cent import surcharge which is expected to generate GH¢208 million for the rest of the year and Gh¢416 million for 2014.

Against this background, the deputy minister tasked the GRA to make efforts to improve revenue collections “so that when this levy is removed, your efficiency will make up for the loss in revenue”.

“I wish to remind you of the GRA vision of integrity, fairness and service and urge you to turn your back on all the negative things we have been reading in the papers especially on correction,” adding that the ministry “promises to make available the necessary facilities to enhance your performance”.

By Charles Benoni Okine/Daily Graphic/Ghana