The President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Eddy Akrong, has called for implementers of the new Integrated Customs Management System to go back to the drawing board to resolve the challenges that have emerged out of the use of the ICUMS at the ports of Ghana, before fully implementing it.
“All we are saying is do not let us do this with all these problems inherent. Let us resolve them before we bring it to this end, where you have a greater number of throughput and bigger number of users,” he said.
Speaking on the Eye on Port panel on the Implementation of ICUMS and the Future of Ghana’s Single Window, the Head of GIFF, emphasized on the need for implementers to address the inefficiencies of the system which he termed as fundamental rather than teething.
“Mind you, Takoradi has started since April 1 and they are in the sixth week now. How much of this has been resolved? Because some of the problems that I have reported keep coming up. What are the assurances we can get that these are going to be resolved before it comes to Tema?” he complained.
He asserted that implementers should have applied the experience gained from the rush introduction of previous customs management reforms, and ensure they did not repeat themselves.
“You have seen what has happened before. You have the advantage of hindsight. So you have a shorter learning curve. We shouldn’t be seeing some of these problems. You should have an improved system.”
Eddy Akrong, 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.
“The trouble my people go through to call to find out what we are doing…is this how it is going to work over and over again? I will push all the complaints to the AC, Mr. Ohene,” he added.
He contended the argument that the challenges experienced during the implementation were operational rather than systemic.
According to him, the reluctance of stakeholders to exit the old systems is a demonstration of clear systemic issues with the ICUMS.
“My sister from Adonai Shipping started a declaration on the 14th of April but only able to pay duty on 8th May,” he cited.
“Are these just from us or someone trying to sabotage the system or these are systemic issues?” he asked.
The GIFF President 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.
“All you see happening in Takoradi is as a result of only two hours of training in February and then they had to kick off from 1st April. If this thing has started on April 28 in Tema…Even myself, if I put the laptop in front of me I wouldn’t even know where to start although I had attended the two-hour training on just 1 regime,” he expressed.
He also said the call centre allocated for addressing technical concerns of users of the ICUMS system is not an efficient one.
“We have been asking to have a top notch call centre. When you go to Takoradi, every single agent has visited the hotel where the technicians work. Why because of frustrations…you call, you don’t get through, you have to walk in there,” he reported.
The seasoned freight forwarder also disputed the one vendor narrative used to back the implementation of the UNIPASS Single Window system.
He said the previous system demonstrated an effective single window system as opposed to the information being peddled by Government officials.
Eddy Akrong, however, 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.
“We are not against government policy. We are not going to fight it. We just need the assurance that it would be done and done well.”
He said they will show commitment in using the new system once it promises efficient clearance of goods and services across the country’s ports.