UNIPASS goes nationwide on Tuesday (April 28th 2020)

Graphic online

All is set for a nationwide deployment of the Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS) otherwise known as Uni-Pass at all the frontier stations and ports of entry in the country from tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28.

The ICUMS, which replaces the systems operated by West Blue Consulting and the Ghana Community Service Network Limited (GCNet), is an upgraded electronic clearing platform that operates as a single entity to provide an end-to-end customs administration. According to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), all the necessary measures had been put in place to ensure the successful implementation of the system.

An official statement issued by the GRA last Friday, and signed by the Ag. Commissioner-General of the GRA, Mr Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, said the full deployment of the new customs administration brought to an end a process which started in phases on March 1, this year, at selected customs frontier stations and was followed by the deployment of the second phase at the Takoradi Port on April 1, 2020.

The third and final phase, which started at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), the Tema Port and the Petroleum Sector on April 20, 2020, will bring the entire process to a close tomorrow. There will also be a mopping up of the other frontier stations where deployment had not been done yet, to bring the entire process to full fruition.

Measures to apply

With the rollout of the system nationwide, the GRA said a number of measures would apply. Among them is that all existing declarations being processed in the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) for which payment of taxes have not been effected by close of banking day today will be required to be re-processed in ICUMS as a new Bill of Entry (BoE) from April 28, 2020.

Also, the GRA said declarations for which payments had been made but had not been cleared before April 28, 2020, would continue to be processed in the GCNet/GCMS system until May 15, 2020.

Besides, direct entry into warehousing, free zones and other suspense regimes shall be processed in the ICUMS with effect from tomorrow, April 28.

It added that existing ex-warehousing, free zones and other suspense regimes declarations would continue to be processed in the GCNet/GCMS system until the cut-off period of May 15, 2020.

Benefits

Expatiating on the benefits of the ICUMS to the nation and the private sector, the Chairman of the ICUMS Implementation Task Force Team, Assistant Commissioner of Customs, Mr Emmanuel Ohene, told the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday that: “Hitherto we had multiple service providers which came with the attendant challenges, which obviously means that system was not seamless.” He said what the government sought to do was to engage one service provider to provide one activity or the other in ensuring that the clearing process was seamless.“So this obviously will save cost and time.”

He emphasised the vast innovations that the new system brings to Ghana’s Supply Chain, particularly with Customs administration.

Mr Ohene explained that generally, the ICUMS is designed to improve competitiveness for the government and the private sector.

He said the system assured improved satisfaction, whereby tax revenue would increase, while assuring transparency through anti-corruption measures.

“The system has an embedded one-stop service, an end-to-end process compared to the separate legacy systems that had operational challenges such as network linkages,” he said.

Paperless system

At the same time, Mr Ohene said the ICUMS would bolster the use of the paperless system which was introduced in 2017.

“With the current state of the paperless system, you have to provide your electronic documents in one service provider platform and when that submission is completed you go to another service provider’s platform and then if you have to send the goods to a bonded warehouse, another service provider will have to provide. Again if the goods have to be examined, it will go back into a previous service provider’s platform. So this was a bit cumbersome,” he said.

However, with the new system, he said, the human intervention in the paperless system would be reduced to the very barest minimum.

Private sector

For the private sector, he said importers and traders were assured of improved work environment and convenience, amid improved satisfaction and quicker turn-around time.

Furthermore, Mr Ohene emphasised the maximisation of productivity, where the introduction of an e-Customs platform would provide flexibility to e-business and e-trade.

“In terms of the single window capabilities of the new system, a solid platform exists for information sharing among government agencies, making the system ideal as an international gateway for commerce. These benefits raise efficiency by reducing clearance time, create synergy by reusing information, and enhance corporate and national competitiveness,” he added.

Banks

Furthermore, Mr Ohene said, with the existing system, even though the paperless system had curtailed the multiple systems of payment of duties, there were only two banks operating with it.

“But, the new system encourages payment through multiple banks and you can also use virtually all the electronic (mobile money) platforms to also make payments.

“As we speak, seven banks have expressed interest in collecting government revenues and the government has given them the go-ahead to collect the revenues.

Asked what percentage of time spent in clearing goods was expected to be cut off with the coming of the ICUMS, Mr Ohene said, “we are looking at, at least 40 per cent.”

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