General News of Friday, 7 July 2017
White Stone Frozen Foods Limited and M&JEES Company, accused of having a cozy arrangement with the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) Customs Division at the Tema Port, has sharply responded to claims that it was being helped by the state tax collector and Presidency – Flagstaff House – to monopolized the importation of frozen poultry and other frozen products into the country.
The two companies said, it had done nothing illegal.
The two heavy-importing companies, which have been traced to a 52-year-old Tema-based business woman, Eunice Jacqueline Buah, who is the Western Regional representative on the Council of State, however, failed to respond to accusation that it is paying lower customs values charges based on its dealings with the GRA, whilst higher values are slapped on its competitors.
Officials close to the powerful lady popularly known as “LABIANCA”, have claimed that she was made a board member of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) board chaired by Peter Mac Manu, ex-National Chairman of the NPP, “to help government and port officials to pluck the holes at the port to maximize revenue for government, hence, the plot by the agitators to pitch the public against her”. This arrangement means, she had been made a referee and a player at the same time by government.
Insiders have insisted that, her unholy arrangement with the Akufo-Addo government, has led to the country losing revenue running into several millions of cedis, while White Stone Frozen Foods Limited and M&JEES Company profit, is retain to share among contacts in government, Flagstaff House, GRA and the governing party.
In a carefully worded and nicely choreographed statement released to selected media houses minus The Herald which broke the story, White Stone Foods Company, claimed it was only taking advantage of a facility known as Customs Advance Ruling on Valuation backed by Section 12 of Act 891 of the GRA Act, which was once made available to a competitor called Francopat Company Limited.
Stone Frozen Foods Limited and M&JEES Company, failed to address what it is currently paying as import duties compared to what others, including Francopat Company Limited is paying to the state.
The Herald, has released dossiers on the activities of the Stone Frozen Foods Limited and M&JEES Company to some experts and has tasked them to help its determine how much the country is losing monthly through this politically engineered scheme for Madam Eunice Jacqueline Buah.
According to the media reports, officials of White Stone Foods Company Limited, suspect a grand agenda by some importers of frozen foods to denigrate the operations of the company owned by the top NPP financier.
She is said to have donated a whopping US$2 million to the Akufo-Addo 2016 campaign. She imports nearly 80 containers of frozen poultry and other frozen products into the country monthly and paying lower values using her political connections as being alleged, therefore puts others in the industry out of competition
The reports revealed that, “some frozen food importers recently stormed the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to kick against the recent decision to grant White Stone Foods Company Customs Advance Ruling on Valuation, making the company become a leading importer of frozen foods”.
The agitators, it said had claimed that the decision would make White Stone Foods monopolize the market and enjoy an unfair pricing to the disadvantage of its competitors, however, the decision by Customs was not an act of illegality as such facility is extended to high volume importers.
The unnamed source according to Daily Guide and The Chronicle newspapers, indicated that the Customs Advance Ruling on Valuation is backed by Section 12 of Act 891 of the GRA Act, adding White Stone Foods Company, has been operating for over three decades until June 8, 2017, when it was granted the Customs Advance Ruling on Valuation.
The company claimed that those who benefitted from the facility under the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration, are also crying foul, but said White Stone Foods, was not the only beneficiary of the Customs discretional facility.
The Daily Guide in particular said its “checks with the GRA revealed that another major importer – Francopat Company Limited – was also granted the same facility on June 22, 2017. Francopat was said to have enjoyed the facility over the last eight years.
“Advance rulings are binding decisions by Customs at the request of the importer concerned on specific particulars in relation to the intended importation or exportation of goods. Advance rulings can be requested with regard to either the classification, the origin or the Customs value of the goods in preparation for importation or exportation”.
“The facility is renewable based on the valuation conducted by Customs on the said product. The facility was only granted to importers, who have over the years shown commitment to the state by paying their required import duties appropriately and on time”, it said.
“It is the first time, White Stone Foods is enjoying this facility. The company was granted the facility on June 8, 2017”.
White Stone Foods Company Limited, has been operating for the past 30 years without enjoying the benefits of this Custom Advance Ruling on Valuation, which has become the bone of contention; yet the company has seen very huge success to create employment for the teeming youth. White Stone Foods, appears to be the biggest frozen foods importer in the country.
Indeed, several importers in the frozen food industry complain that, they are gradually being left to lick their wounds as higher customs charges are thrown at them on the same product and tonnage as compared to Eunice Jacqueline Buah’s White Stone Frozen Foods Limited and M&JEES Company.
It has been reported that, the two companies are charged between $0.60 to 0.64 cents as a customs value per kilogram on a Frozen Chicken Leg Quarters and a Chicken Back goes between $0.35 to 0.38 dollar cents that is brought into the country, compared to its competitors been charged $0.90 cents to $1 dollar and $0.7 to 0.80 dollar cent per kilogram respectively on the same frozen items.
With the differentials in charges by the GRA customs division at the Tema Port, most importers of poultry and other frozen meats are unable to clear their goods, giving only White Stone Frozen Foods Limited and its sister companies, the upper hand of clearing their goods as a result of the lower charges preferred them.
It is becoming increasingly clear that, those companies who are direct competitors are been chased out of business due to the influence of this powerful Council of State and a Board member of GPHA.
“LABIANCA” is said to have supported the NPP through the first lady with 2 million US dollars, that might have necessitated the preferential charges by the customs officials at the Port.
Some customs officials, are also alleged to be on the payroll of this powerful Council of State member.
Kumasi-based Kessben FM, reported that as per their investigation, the reason for including the custom officers on her payroll, is to set them against her competitors by frustrating them through unnecessary tagging of their consignments which also affect them adversely.
According to Kessben FM, already, as a result of this tagging, such importers, end up paying unnecessary port electricity charges, rent and demurrage charges.
They argued that, a government that was determined to encourage private sector participation and development cannot allow this unfair system to exist, as it makes the other importers uncompetitive, leading eventually to the collapse of their entities and increase joblessness, which has already bedeviled this great country.