Revenue inflows to the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) rose by 1.66 per cent to GH¢8.7 billion last year, partly as a result of the introduction of the Single Window System, which streamlined revenue collections at the various ports.
The increment is the first of its kind in three years and came on the back of substantive dips in collections by Customs in the past two years.
Data from Customs showed that in 2013 and 2014, the division's collections fell short of its targets by 10.36 per cent and 2.07 per cent respectively but rose to GH¢8.7 billion last year, thanks to the commencement of the Single Window System by West Blue.
The system ensures that what is declared is collected in revenue, thereby eliminating undervaluation and payments, which have been the bane of tax collections at the country's trade points.
It was introduced in September, last year, to replace the defunct system, which had been criticised for burdening importers with numerous procedures while doing little to raise tax collections.
That performance coming on the heels of the implementation of the National Single Window system in the last quarter of 2015, the Chief Executive of West Blue Consulting Limited, Mrs Valentina Sowu Minta, told Graphic Business was a sign of good things to come.
She observed that while revenue collection targets were of national interest, the goal of the NSW was to facilitate trade (reduction in time and cost of doing trade business) which ultimately had significant impact on revenue collection.
National Single Window
After 15 years of working with destination inspection companies (DICs), Ghana on September 1, last year dispensed with their services, handing over the task to the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
The new regime allows the Customs to issue Customs Classification and Valuation Report (CCVR), which replaces the Final Classification and Valuation Report (FCVR) which previously was being issued by DICs
The decision to implement the NSW was met with both applause and criticism in equal measure. While more than 500 employees of the DICs lose their jobs, the move is seen as an opportunity to save the country millions of cedis that went into the coffers of the DICs as compensation for their technical support.
The new system is being implemented by West Blue Ghana Limited and GCNet Services, in partnership with other scanning companies. The computerised concept is meant to ensure a seamless, efficient and user-friendly e-clearance regime.
The single window concept provides an opportunity for traders to lodge their documents, including certificates of origin, invoices, customs declarations and import/export permits, at a single location (electronically) to be accessed by all regulatory and trade agencies, instead of traders sending copies of the same documents to different agencies.
The implementation of the system has led to the development of a modernised environment where the Customs Division provides a Pre-Arrival Assessment Reporting System (PAARS) to enhance revenue mobilisation, improve border security and Customs clearance, overcome duplication across regulatory agencies and promote trade facilitation.
CCVR time drastic cut
Mrs Minta asserted that to date with PAARS, the trade facilitation objective had been achieved by CCVRs being issued in up to 2 days (some compliant cases, within 2 hours), whereas that used to take up to 2 weeks in the previous regime.
“Now, everything is paperless, so you don’t have to stress yourself in traffic to present manual papers, printing several copies of the same information.
Now they are able to lodge document before the arrival of their cargo which should help reduce demurrage because the compliance issues would have been done prior to the arrival of the cargo,”she said.
GCNet & West Blue functions
While many criticise the current system as being nothing different from what GCNet was doing, the West Blue boss, insisted that her company’s job could not be compared to that of the former.
“What West Blue did is we helped customs take over the function of pre-clearance. It has nothing to do with GCNet’s work. We are also an information technology company and not a destination inspection company that is one of the fundamental differences.”
GCNet has never done Customs Classification and Valuation that is customs, job and we provide them with the tools,” she explained.
The new system has also come under criticism for not being friendly for computer illiterates since the old regime was paperwork.
But Mrs Minta said the design of its system had been made user friendly and intuitive since the company understood the dynamics of the people it was working with.
“We are familiar with using tablets and mobile phones. We made the interface very graphical and intuitive. That is what we build into so that so you don’t have to be IT literate. If you can use a phone and can read the instructions, you should be able to use it,” she said.
On the achievements, the concept was driven by a vibrant governance structure made up of steering committee, technical committee and working group.
“It is a major achievement that has brought all the relevant stakeholders to one table. So that anything that is implemented is reviewed by all. So you have everybody involved from day one from inspection right down to management. So it is fit for purpose for every segment.
If you look at the trade supply chain, everybody has a mandate, everybody has a role. If you don’t come together and coordinate, you might introduce efficiencies in your small corner but creating bottlenecks further down the line,” she added.
To curtail the challenges of paying for the import declaration forms, the company also developed an electronic payment solution.
The platform allows clients to use multiple modes of payment –mobile for pay for their IDF, visa or mastercard, e-trasact.
“It is extremely innovative because the CCVR which customs took over from the destination inspection companies is running 24/7 compared to five days a week in the past.
“Now you have 365 days. You can put in your application at midnight on Saturday, on Monday, you get to the office and it is done. There was a challenge before and you could not pay, now you can make that payment and application even on Sunday,” she said.