The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry has asked the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bolgatanga Central to apologize to the Senior Minister over comments he made in relation to the UNI-PASS contract.
Mr. Carlos Ahenkorah describes the statement, purported to have been made by Mr Isaac Adongo, attributing complications in operations at the Tema Port to Mr. Yaw Osafo-Maafo, as reckless and therefore must be retracted.
The Deputy Minister made this call on Wednesday in a rejoinder copied to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in which he sought to set the record straight with regards to the coming into force of the new Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS).
The Deputy Minister, who was also the MP for Tema West and a member of the Joint Inter-Ministerial Committee that saw the implementation of the new system, said that holding Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo responsible for what happened at the Tema Port last Tuesday would be unfortunate and a calculated attempt to malign “an honest politician who is respected by both sides of the House.”
The Deputy Minister explained that the newly signed trade facilitation agreement between the Ministry of Trade and Industry and South Korea Customs UNIPASS International Agency (CUPIA)/Ghana Link was a government decision.
Furtherance to that, the Tema West MP informed that Cabinet set up a Joint Inter-Ministerial Oversight Committee (JIMOC) chaired by the Senior Minister to oversee the implementation of the ICUMS, and that the Senior Minister had diligently discharged his duties accordingly.
“But for the Senior Minister, we would not be where we are today with the reinstatement of calm in our clearance processes. What happened in the port last Tuesday was reminiscent of a typical system deployment which had done well in other collections like the various entry points and the Port of Takoradi during piloting but challenged at the final full implementation for various reasons,” Mr. Ahenkorah added.
The Deputy Trade Minister indicated that every Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system newly deployed experienced difficulties and showed significant “left outs” that only needed fixing.
“You never get a newly introduced system from the start without any operational hitches. It happened at the onset of GCNet in 2002 and West Blue in 2015, but these problems were surmounted with time to make the system near-seamless,” Mr. Ahenkorah asserted.
That, notwithstanding, the Deputy Minister informed that the problems identified during the piloting had been corrected and the system was ready to come into full force at the Tema Port, observing that the challenge encountered was not a system challenge but rather an operational challenge.
He said that to suggest the Senior Minister had a personal interest in UNIPASS showed how uninformed Mr. Adongo was. “The Senior Minister’s intervention rather calmed nerves and brokered peace and understanding amongst all stakeholders with a resultant resumption of operations at the port,” he added.
In assuring the public of the efficacy of the UNIPASS system, the Deputy Minister told of how UNIPASS undertook feasibility studies for Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) in 2015 on a single-window operation.
Mr. Ahenkorah, therefore, assured that the new system would rather enhance fast processing and quick reconciliation of documents unlike the previous multiple systems and improve revenue mobilization and security at the ports.