Government to trim port workers to plug revenue leakage

Government plans to cut down on the number of workers at the country’s sea ports as part of a series of measures to block revenue leakages and corruption at the harbours.

The move is to limit human interaction in the clearance of goods at the ports, which is expected to be executed by an efficient electronic system as part of the paperless administration system.

The Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia said at a conference on ports efficiency in Accra that the government would in the next few months begin to trim down the number of workers at the ports and possibly limit human interactions that breed corruption.

It is estimated that more than GH¢350 million annually is lost to the government due to the several human interactions that foster corruption and revenue leakages from the ports.

This, the Vice President  described as alarming, which must be checked by cutting down on the number of workers in a bid to minimise corruption and derive the maximum revenue from the ports.

Unending battle

Corruption at the country’s ports has become a major source of concern for successive governments and the attempts to nib the canker in the bud have been fiercely resisted with threats of political cost.

Corruption syndicates at the ports stems mostly with the connivance of some serving officers at the port to ignore the inspection process and give their own description to containers on custom documentation to attract very little or no tax at all.

Sometimes containers are described as carrying low valued goods such as foodstuff, provisions for super market or house hold items and most of the consignees are people known to be owners of major trading companies in the country.

According to Dr Bawumia, the inefficiencies and man-made bottlenecks have a direct bearing on revenue collection and encourage collusion among importers, clearing agents and customs officials to exploit the system.

Rooted perception

According to him, the current port systems have created favourable conditions for bribery and corruption, attracting many people to seek non-existing jobs there.

“Since we’ve come to office, one of the things that I have noticed is when everybody comes to ask me for a job, I say  where do you want to work, number one answer, port. Without fail, I want to go to the port. What is in the port, what really is there? Am I missing something, everybody wants to work in the port,” he said.

Dr Bawumia stated that the perception of making quick money at the port was so rooted in the public sector such that almost all the agencies that was doing some exercises at border posts wanted their personnel transferred to the ports.

Measures to curb canker

“Even the people working at customs  come to me and say they want a transfer, where do you want to go, I want to go to the port, there must be something that is happening there, and if people are making additional revenues then it means the government is not getting those revenues,” he said.

“So we are going to look at this systems, this human interfaces, how do we really get this automation done.

He said: “From September 1st, we will want to see mandatory joint inspections and examinations of containers at the port.

“Secondly, from September 1st, Ghana is going 100 per cent paperless at the ports to bring about efficiency.

“The third policy reform that we are implementing is to do with the transit corridor and the barriers that are there that inhibit or delay or extort as far as transit trade is concerned. We want to, from September 1st, eliminate all internal custom barriers and it will really change Ghana’s competitiveness in the sub-region.” -GB