The cabinet has approved the implementation of the UNIPASS port clearing system, which was initially scheduled to start on January 1, 2019.
The Finance Ministry has written to the Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) and West Blue (Customs World) to prepare to handover to UNIPASS.
The two agencies have over the years built the systems to aid the smooth running of the Ports by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).
In the said letter, Cabinet sometime in mid-January this year approved for UNIPASS to take over the operations of GCNet and West Blue and hence directed that the two companies got ready for a transition - which team will be formed soon.
This news comes as a shock to many because even though the implementation of the UNIPASS port clearing system was initially scheduled to start on January 1, 2019, it got suspended due to legal, operational and other policy issues by the Economic Management Team (EMT).
In a directive, contained in a Decision Note of the EMT headed by Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, and dated December 20, 2018, the decision to suspend the implementation of the UNIPASS system was to allow for the use of the existing National Single Window while giving time to Cabinet to scrutinize the 10-year sole-sourced deal.
“The planned introduction of UNIPASS on January 1, 2019, be suspended, with a transition period to at least August 2019 to avoid potential disruptions to the port clearing system,” the Decision Note signed by Prof. Joe Amoako-Tuffour, Secretary/Member of the EMT said.
The suspension of the take-off date for the UNIPASS system was also to allow for the Attorney General to advise the government on abrogating the existing contract with Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) and West Blue (Customs World).
“The Minister for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Finance [should] bring to Cabinet for the consideration and approval of the UNIPASS arrangement and the Ghana Link Network Services Limited contract,” the Decision Note copied to the Commissioner-General of the GRA at the time said.
But based on this background, Joy Business understands, Cabinet has still gone ahead and approved the deal in their last meeting based on which the Ministry of Finance has written to the GCNet and West Blue asking them to avail themselves to a transition team which will be put together soon.
West Blue goes to court
Currently, the IT solution firm West Blue has gone to court suing UNIPASS and all of it operators for allegedly plagiarising its software for its single window project.
The suit filed at the Commercial Division of the Accra High Court is against Ghana Link Network Services Limited, Customs UNI-PASS International
Agency of Korea (CUPIA, Korea) and Work Smart Limited.
West Blue is seeking an order from the court restraining the three companies, its directors, agents or anyone acting in their names from using its software as part of the UNIPASS system.
It also wants the court to award damages against the defendants for infringing its copyright by cloning its software without authorisation.
In its statement of claim accompanying its writ, West Blue said Ghana Link in July 2018, copied its Pre-Arrival Assessment Reporting System (PAARS) and Risk Management System, which were modules of its original Ghana Single Operating system.
The IT firm also said the features, designs and operations of the UNIPASS system is the system as its existing system.
“The social media link on the supposed new system redirects to West Blue’s social media handles,’’ it said.
According to West Blue, stakeholders at the country’s ports became aware that the UNIPASS system was a cloned of its system after a demonstration was done at the port.
West Blue also said it became aware that Ghana Link had copied its application because the UNIPASS’s system could not be ready by January 1, 2019, which was the deadline for the takeover, so the piracy of its system was to help Ghana Link meet the deadline until its own system was ready.
On August 4, 2015, West Blue entered into an agreement with the government to provide a single window government as part of efforts to integrate the systems of service providers at the country’s ports and facilitate the clearing of goods without voluminous paperwork and reduce transactional time.
The contract was to expire in 2020 after which West Blue would hand over the system to the government of Ghana.
However, in March 2018, the Ministry of Trade signed a 10-year sole-sourced contract with Ghana Link Network Service Limited and its overseas partner, CUPIA Korea Customs Service, to oversee the implementation of the National Single Window Project, including the paperless system, at the ports.
Ghana Link with its overseas partners, CUPIA Korea Customs Service will provide the trade facilitation and Customs Management System at a 0.75 per cent fee (FOB) per their contract with the Ministry of Trade.
This figure is extremely higher than what the existing vendors, West Blue and GCNet are currently receiving as a fee.
West Blue Consulting currently earns 0.28 per cent, while GCNet earns 0.4 per cent. So, the two existing vendors providing single window operations in Ghana together are taking 0.68 per cent which is far below what UNIPASS is going to take (0.75 per cent).