An Assistant Commissioner of Customs and the Commander of Accra Collection, and the Chairman of the Implementation Team of ICUMS, Emmanuel Ohene has called for all stakeholders within the port clearance chain including the trading public to abandon their reluctant attitude towards the change in system in order to fully appreciate the benefits of the Integrated Customs Management System which according to him will achieve the government’s single window goals.
The Chairman of the ICUMs Implementation Team, attributed many of the challenges associated with the initial implementation of the new Integrated Customs Management System to the defiance of some stakeholders in the port clearance chain including members of the freight forwarding fraternity.
“Their concerns are real and we would be unrealistic to deploy this new system without taking into account the challenges that come along with it. But for goodness sake, from experience, the mentality we have had deploying this, is that it won’t work and this is what I would like to disabuse their minds from” the Accra Collection Sector Commander asserted.
Although Mr. Ohene admitted to what in his view are certain teething challenges on the part of ICUMS, he maintained that many of the challenges experienced during its implementation were more operational on the part of other stakeholders in the clearance chain rather than systemic.
“It came to our notice that some shipping lines who had been instructed to upload their manifest in ICUMS had intentionally gone ahead to upload the manifest in the GCMS. We had to revert to the practice where we directed that because the manifest could not be seen in the ICUMS, they should not go ahead and process the payment receipt and BOE by email to terminal operators for the boxes to be delivered,” he cited.
Carlos Ahenkorah, a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, also a panellist on the program, corroborated Emmanuel Ohene's position and blamed shipping lines and port terminals for failing to plug into the new system as the main reason of the current inefficiencies that plagued the implementation of ICUMS.
“No matter how good the system is they are not interested. So as I speak, not all the shipping agents have configured their system into the UNIPASS. MPS which operates about 70% of the boxes in the port was not ready to come on board UNIPASS for the system to work,” he added.
Yet, the Deputy Minister in Charge of Trade, insisted on government’s resolve to continue the implementation of the ICUMS, to achieve its Single Window objective, and said it would be wise for all stakeholders to immediately buy into the project.
The Head of the Implementation Team of ICUMS, described the frustrations of the trading public especially the freight forwarding fraternity as exaggerated, and said the system is not as dysfunctional as being speculated, quoting that, as of Sunday, 10th May 2020, successful clearance of about 350+ declarations have been done through the ICUMS with government having collected significant revenues in Takoradi alone.
“Apart from the processing of exports declarations, we have not deployed the UNIPASS in Tema. But we have collected revenue on UNIPASS in Takoradi.”
He continued to praise the UNIPASS system which he described as superior with a more straightforward process flow that would be convenient to users, and cited that that was a fact appreciated by many freight forwarders during the introduction of the ICUMS systems.
“The Freight forwarders who have had the benefits of appreciating the ICUMS in its entirety through the training, are satisfied with some saying they wished it had started yesterday,” he revealed.
The President of the Ghana Institute of Freight forwarders, Eddy Akrong, on the same program, lamented the sufferings of port users including freight forwarders who represent the trading public due to the unjustifiable delays associated with the new ICUMS.
“Are we going to take 21days, 14 days to do a declaration, which is not one particular instance?” he bemoaned.
He criticized the inadequate level of training given to users of the system, and attributed that as a major cause of the difficulties faced by members of his outfit over the course of the implementation of ICUMS.
“What you see in Takoradi is as a result of two hours of training in February and they had to kick off on 1st April. If this had started on April 28 in Tema…even if I do this myself. If I put the laptop in front of me I wouldn’t know where to start although I had attended the two-hour training on one regime. This is what is still happening,” he disclosed.
Eddy Akrong maintained that he is not interested in challenging policy directives but the outcomes of those policies are what his outfit has always been concerned about.
He then emphasized on the need for implementers to go back to the drawing board to address the inefficiencies of the system which he termed as fundamental rather than teething.
“What I am saying now is that if these are teething issues, so be it. But you have seen what has happened before and you have the advantage of hindsight of the things that have happened, you have a shorter learning curve, we shouldn’t be seeing these things. So please, all we are saying is do not let us do this with all the problems inherent. Let us resolve them,” he stressed.
The Assistant Commissioner, Emmanuel Ohene, admitted that the current challenges had made it obvious for the need to postpone sole implementation of the ICUMS, and a parallel operation with the old vendors will be used, as more consultation with stakeholders ought to be done.