The “First-Port-of-Call Rule”, an arrangement that allows customs officials from neighbouring landlocked countries to set up desks at Ghana’s Ports to collect taxes on transit goods, would become operational on March 1, this year.
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minister of Finance, who announced this in speech read on his behalf at this year’s World Customs Day, in Accra, on Monday, urged the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to police the tracking devices mounted on vehicles that convey transit imported goods.
The World Customs Day, which is celebrated on January 26, every year, is a day set aside to recognise the role of Customs officials and agencies for ensuring border security.
This year’s celebration fell on Saturday, January 26, and Management of GRA shifted the celebration to Monday, January 28, held under the theme: “SMART Borders for Seamless Trade, Travel and Transport”.
Mr Ofori-Atta said the theme for the celebration was apt since it reminded Customs officers to ensure diligence, honesty, integrity and strict observance of the rules and regulations governing the movement of goods, people and transport from one country to another.
He reminded Customs officials of their responsibility of safeguarding the country’s entry points and mobilising revenue for the State, and expressed worry over the Customs inability to meet its revenue targets over the past three years.
“The non-observance of the rules governing transit trade and the probable complicity and collusion of Customs officers’ cost the nation two billion Ghana cedis in revenues last year.
“Apart from the huge loss of revenue, the practice of diverting imports meant for neighbouring countries back into the country makes our domestic traders uncompetitive as their goods find it difficult to sell because the diverted uncustomed goods are sold at lower prices.” Mr Ofori-Atta said.
He said such corrupt practices drove traders out of business and further deepened the unemployment situation in the country, with its consequent loss of tax revenue and negative effects on economic growth.
Mr Ofori-Atta lauded the GRA’s directive for ensuring free zone operators pay the required import duties on goods meant for free zone shops and later apply for refund.
The directive comes in the wake of recent criminal cases of diversion of duty-free goods to the Ghanaian market, which has caused the GRA over three million dollars.
While urging Customs officials to remain loyal to the country by adhering strictly to professional conduct to enhance revenue mobilization, the Minister entreated importers to comply with international trade laws.
“I charge the Management of the Customs Division to come out with appropriate mechanisms and directives to enhance the movement of goods and services across borders,” Mr Ofori-Atta urged.
Mr Emmanuel Kofi Nti, the Commissioner-General of the GRA, underscored the need for Customs officers to consolidate the gains made so far and further deepen efforts to ease the flow of goods and services across borders and turn globalization into a positive force.
He said the SMART border concept highlighted Customs role in supporting the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development meant to ensure timely delivery of raw materials to industry, reduce unfair competition in local communities, opening opportunities for marginalized communities to access new markets and create transparent and predictable conditions for trade.
In this regard, he encouraged Customs officers to enforce the guiding principles at the centre of Customs compliance, enforcement and facilitation efforts.
He said the introduction of the Pre-Arrival Assessment System as part of the Single Window System, establishment of the Customs Technical Service Bureau to ensure quick turn-around time for the classification, valuation and clearance of imports in 2015, Paperless Ports System in 2017, and Cargo Tracking Note last year aimed at ensuring seamless trade facilitation on the country’s entre points.
Mr Nti gave the assurance that the Authority would continue to cooperate with the country’s neighbouring countries to ensure seamless movement of goods, people and transport to help achieve the needed economic growth with resultant creation of jobs in order to alleviate poverty.
The meeting attracted key stakeholders in the import and export industry including freight forwarders, captains of industry, heads of public institutions, security agencies, chief executive officers of the Ghana Standards Authority, Ghana Union of Traders Associations, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, among others.