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26 July 2017

Importers blame custom officials’ interdiction for port delays

At least one hundred staff of the Custom Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) at the Tema Port have been interdicted for their alleged involvement in revenue losses.

Information available to Citi Business News indicates that the development has spanned between May and July 18, 2017.

In addition, the customs division has also embarked on 70 inward transfers so far.

The development is reported to have led to delays at the ports which the importers contend may push huge losses on their operations if unchecked.

Checks by Citi Business News indicate that the morale of the staff has waned as they do not know when next another list of workers would be called to answer quarries or a possible interdiction.

Hitherto, the importers say it should take a day or two to clear one’s goods but the issue has dragged to three days minimum in some ‘fortunate’ instances.

The Acting President of the Concern Freight Forwarders and Traders Association, COFFT, Kwasi Afrawuah, narrated his frustration.

“Hitherto, all things being equal, with the necessary clearing documents intact, it should take an agent a maximum of two days to get a container out of the Port and sometimes even a day, but now with the mass interdictions at Customs Division at the Tema Port, systems and procedures have actually slowed down where agents are now clearing their goods after three days minimum and sometimes the process drags to two weeks.”

A Technical committee member of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Johnny Mantey also noted that “the interdiction is unfortunate and urged authorities at Customs to ensure thorough investigations are done to ensure that the morale of its officers are boosted.”

He said few documents that have been cited have shown some inconsistencies in the documents and must be looked at critically.

“These officers work hard to ensure that importers clear their goods on time and so if one way or the other they have flouted some procedures, it must be critically looked at. Some officers we are aware were sent query letters and even before they answer it, they are sacked which is unfair”

Mr. Mantey further alluded that if government does not take the necessary steps to address the situation, the necessary revenue it is longing to get to carry out its major development programmes will not come to fruition.

He added that government must look at the post clearance audit process which allows government to recover lost taxes even after goods are cleared at the Port since it would help in the investigations being carried out.

Responding to the concerns, the Assistant Commissioner of Customs at the Tema Port, Felix Mate-Kojo noted that though the morale of workers have been affected, management is taking up steps to ensure it does not affect work output.

He said “investigations are ongoing led by a committee of enquiry so let’s just adopt the sit and wait attitude until the investigations are over because as it is, it is not clear of the exact offence or malfeasance. All I know, the interdiction letter states that failure to do due diligence in discharging their duties.”

By: Elvis Washington/citibusinessnews.com/Ghana

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