Paperless port system must focus on trade facilitation – CILT
The paperless port clearing system was introduced in September 1, 2017 as part of three directives from government aimed at ensuring port operation efficiency.
Six months into its implementation, CILT has expressed worry over the abandonment of the aim of the paperless system in respect to trade facilitation and rather focusing on revenue mobilization.
Mr Ebo Hammond, President of CILT, who made the call said “despite the stated objective of focusing on trade facilitation and enhancing the user experience throughout the clearance procedure, there is still too much focus on revenue mobilization, as government policy continues to set highly ambitious collection targets for its officials.”
Mr Hammond stated this on Thursday at its Continuous Professional Development Programme on the theme “improvements in the cargo clearance processes at the ports of Ghana, the role of the paperless system”
In a speech read on his behalf, he indicated that such ambitious targets created pressure on officials to scrutinize consignments in more details, which “ends up in upward valuation of goods against stated amounts on the commercial invoices despite objections by shippers and other agents leading to higher costs, longer and unnecessary delays”.
Other consequence of revenue mobilization focus, he stated, was the potential to create unnecessary avenues for illicit fees and charges.
He recommended the use of the paperless database to set realistic targets, both for total clearing time and revenue collection to help balance the need for revenue generation and trade facilitation.
Touching on other challenges of the paperless system, Mr Hammond, revealed that even though the ultimate objective of the process involved reduction of human interface and e-sharing of information across agencies, there was still a multitude of redundant agencies at the port, with some having overlapping mandates that complicated the process and added unnecessary delays and charges to trade.
He also mentioned that there was ambiguity regarding risk management system as many users had experienced a “start from zero” approach as instead of relying on a shipper or agents’ proven track record
“The current risk management process lacks a clear mechanism of action, where various agencies use different criteria to estimate the risk level of specific consignment, leading sometimes to an incoherent assignment of risk level,” he said.
He, however, agreed that the implementation of the regime had been successfully and visibly managed to increase revenue mobilization, as well as reduced significantly the paper based transactions.
Mr Hammond also noted that recent monitoring by the Borderless Alliance revealed that customs checkpoints had reduced from nine to two as at November 2017.
Presentations from West Blu, GCNet, Freight-Forwarders, Meridian Ports Services all enumerated the successes and challenges of the paperless system.