Ghana Link Network Services Ltd., the technical advisers behind the new Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS) for the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), has rejected claims that the system has collapsed and is unable to clear goods electronically at the Takoradi Port.
According to Ghana Link, the system, referred to as UNIPASS, is working correctly, adding that there are no issues with the clearing of goods at the sea port.
The reaction by Ghana Link follows media reports that tension was brewing at the Takoradi Port because frustrated freight forwarders are unhappy with the failure of the UNIPASS system to clear goods electronically, leading to new directives to have clearing agents use a manual process to clear goods.
It was also alleged that, unlike the Ghana Community Network Services Ltd (GCNet) and West Blue systems, where documents are electronically available for direct access anytime in the end to end chain, the new ICUMS was unable to deliver the same outcomes.
This means that other agencies that relied on electronic data for reporting purposes become deficient as they could not see what was going on in the system.
The manifest submission in ICUMS, according to the reports, was also a huge challenge as agents were forced to process entries without manifest to be matched later when shipping lines are able to create it.
But the IT Director/CTO at Ghana Link, Alvin Kwabena Ansah, who spoke to Joy Business explained: freight forwarders were asked by the customs officials to go to the shipping lines to manually clear goods for just one day because the banks did not complete payment procedures to allow shipping lines release containers and goods to clearing agents: “The issue is a comedy of errors because UNIPASS has a function that enables shipping lines to deliver goods and containers after payment has been made by the clearing agent and the system updated by the bank.
The shipping line can only see the bill of entry (BOE) if the agent has fully paid for the generated bill. UNIPASS can only allow the shipping line to proceed to clear by seeing the BOE when the clearing agent makes payment with the bank, and the banks update ICUMS.
“At the Takoradi Port, what happened was that agents made payment to the bank, but the bank officials failed to complete the procedures by updating the system; however, they issued receipts. As long as the bank did not update the UNIPASS system to reflect payments they had received, shipping lines could not see that payment had been effected and therefore could not release the containers or goods,” he said.
This, according to Kwabena Ansah, led to agents feeling agitated since they had made payments to the bank and had all necessary documentation which should allow the release of their goods or containers.
But after payment, when they went to the shipping lines, they were told that UNIPASS system was not showing that they had made payment even though they were holding receipts from the bank.
This, according to him, is what caused the confusion and led to GRA Customs officials to direct the shipping lines to allow manual clearing, “something we rectified immediately we traced and found out, that was where the issue came from.”
Alvin Kwabena Ansah added that new directives had been issued to the banks to prevent such anomaly from recurring.
“After tracing what the problem was, we have directed the banks to only issue receipts after updating the UNIPASS system, and I can tell you that things have returned to normal and we don’t have any issues,” he said.
He added that Ghana Link, in collaboration with GRA Customs officials, have stationed some of their men at UNIPASS offices to assist agents who are not conversant with the new system or are having challenges in using it.