General News of Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Even before the controversy surrounding the settlement of the Bandswitch judgement debt can be resolved, the Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet), has alerted the government of a possible breach of its service contract if it goes ahead to sign a new Single Window (SW) agreement with West Blue Ghana Limited.
The single window concept provides an opportunity for traders to lodge their documents, including certificates of origin, invoices, customs declarations and import/export permits at a single location (electronically) to be accessed by all regulatory and trade agencies instead of traders sending copies of the same documents to different agencies.
The facility reduces the cost and time of doing business.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) had in a June 3, 2015 letter, given the Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) up to 12 noon of June 8, 2015 to “respond with an Expression of Interest”, indicating how soon they could make $35 million available to help the government to defray a GHC197 million judgement debt secured against the Government of Ghana by Bandswitch Ghana Limited.
The GCNet said although its concerns have nothing to do with the DICs paying the $35 million, its intention is to draw the government’s attention to a contract the two parties had signed and which could be breached if the government went ahead with its plans to sign a new agreement with West Blue Ghana Limited.
“As you are aware, under the provisions of the Service Agreement executed between the government and GCNet, the government, as part of its obligations, granted ‘GCNet exclusive rights to provide the services’, among these services was the development and deployment of a TradeNet,” the statement said.
A June 11, 2015 letter signed by Dr Nortey K. Omaboe, the Executive Chairman of GCNet and addressed to the Minister of Trade and Industry, said the letter was to draw the government’s attention to “forestall a situation in which the government would be in breach of the GCNet Service Agreement with government”.
It also said the GCNet had been made aware of the considerations within the government to implement a “National Single Window Project” and indicated that “GCNet is already mandated to implement a Single Window in Ghana, which obligation it has been pursuing in accordance with the terms of the agreement.”
Chief of Staff’s letter
The GCNet’s letter, which was copied to the Chief of Staff, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, seems to be a response to a letter from the Chief of Staff to the Minister of Finance to engage West Blue Ghana Limited in implementing a “National Single Window and Risk Management System project”.
The Chief of Staff’s letter, dated May 12, 2015, directed the Minister of Finance “to formally engage West Blue Limited to render services such as software implementation and support activities to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and related agencies for takeover of the functions of the DICs on September 1, 2015; conduct needs/GAP Analysis for the implementation of the National Single Window; and implement the National Single Window Blue Print, following the needs/GAP Analysis”.
It asked the Minister of Finance to “take the necessary steps to secure the Public Procurement’s approval in order to engage West Blue on Single Source Basis.”
The GCNet referred the government to the agreement signed between the two parties in August 2013 “… to deepen the Single Window concept that was being implemented as an integral part of the TradeNet”.
It said following the strides that GCNet had made towards the implementation of the Single Window, Ghana was one of the first countries to be listed by the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation (UNCEFACT) as having deployed a Single Window.
According to GCNet, Ghana already had a SW system through the GCNet that “enables parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardised information through a single entry point…”
It enumerated the facilities it had deployed to justify its position that Ghana already had a SW system in place, including the deployment of a Unique Consignment Reference (UCR); the connection of almost all state agencies into the system and the electronic issuance of Certificates of Origin by the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI).
It also said the GCNet had deployed a business intelligence (BI) reporting tool that extracted data from the single lodgement of data and vessel sailings, adding that “… by short messaging system (SMS) texting to 1477, trade operators are able to check on the status of transactions and the quantum of duty and tax payments made thereon”.
Despite the significant progress made with the SW, it acknowledged that there were challenges in the implementation of the SW due to the non-adherence to the requirements for critical success factors.