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CEPS And Police Blamed For High Cost Of Onions   
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Onions would have been much more affordable to most Ghanaian households, but for the illicit levies collected by customs and police officers along the Tema-Ouagadougou trade route, Public Agenda has gathered.

A minimum of GH4.4m is extorted annually from traders plying the Tema-Ouagadougou route. On average, traders plying the route part with the minimum of GH30.00 at each of the eleven checkpoints mounted by the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) and the Ghana Police Service (GPS) in exchange for Right Of Way. This brings the total of illicit levies collected by officers of CEPS AND Ghana Police on one trip to GH330.00.

These payments are in addition to demands for some of the onions being transported. Traders belonging to the Accra Onion Sellers Cooperative Society say they have no choice than to pass on this cost to consumers, pushing the price of onions beyond the means of many Ghanaians.

The traders disclosed this in their account of the frustrations they encounter on the route, at a one-day training workshop on the role of stakeholders in combating bribery, corruption and road delays along the Tema-Ouagadougou trade corridor. It was organized by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) as part of a campaign to improve road transport governance.

The accounts of the traders went to affirm studies undertaken in September and October 2009 by three teams on the route, which has 881km in Ghana and 176km in Burkina Faso. According to the statistics, the total amount of bribes collected can reach GHc4.38M per year.

The study which in many respects confirm the traders account, established that in Ghana, "drivers paid anywhere from GHc2 to GHc4 in bribes per stop, with CEPS officers accepting no less than GHc3."

The study affirmed that over the course of a journey from Tema to Ouagadougou, these individual stops could thus add up to
GHl00. "On any given day the number of traders plying the route can reach 120, therefore, the total amount in bribes collected can reach GHc12,000 per day, GHc84,000 per week, GHc336,000 per month and GHc4,380,000 per year." Gladys Ndiikanbasi, Secretary to the Accra Onion Sellers Cooperative Society; Zakaria Mumuni, Executive Member; and Issaka, a member, recalled an occasion where the Police Headquarters detailed four personnel to accompany them on the trip to observe the situation at first hand.

They said following the report of the dispatch team, the officers at the various checkpoints were transferred. This was confirmed by an officer of the service. However, their replacements are doing worse, according to the traders.

Mrs. Florence Dennis, Executive Secretary, Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), has noted that the action of the police administration was unfortunate. "Those officers should have been sacked." She argued. She blamed the administration's inability to dismiss the officers on the general lack of political will to uphold values. "When such issues get to the institutions, they need the will to punish them so that we will also have the will to report." She stressed.

The traders admitted they had not resisted paying the bribes because they wanted to save their perishable goods from going bad. They said if they resisted, the security personnel would offload their cargo under the pretext of checking for smuggled goods, added to the mishandling of the produce would affect the lifespan of the onions.

An obviously unenthused Mumuni pointed out that they only imported onions from Niger and did not engage in smuggling. For that matter, anytime the security personnel suspected smuggling, they should arrest the truckers and take them to their headquarters for examination, rather than offloading goods at the checkpoints.

Yaw Opoku of the Internal Revenue Service condemned the actions of the security agencies in question, arguing that they amount to compromising the security of the nation. "What if these traders happen to have concealed arms in their cargo?"
What is more, monies paid at the various stops between Niger and Burkina Faso before crossing into Ghana are factored into transportation cost and transferred to consumers.

Staff of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) at Kulungugu checkpoint were also mentioned by the September and October study, as bribe collectors.

At the Ghanaian border, GIS staff were reported to be collecting a minimum of GH5 in bribes per person. According to the LRC, These practices are a direct violation of obligations under the ECOWAS treaty which 'grants full and unrestricted freedom of transit through its territory for goods proceeding to or from a third country' and which require that such transit shall not be subject to any discrimination, quantitative restrictions, duties or other charges'.

Participants agreed that the Tema-Ouagadougou trade route case is only a manifestation of the corrupt society that has been built. According to Dr Ferdinand D. Tay, President of the Consumers Association, Ghana, "Corruption is a hydra-headed issue." He agreed with Dr K. A. Busia's assertion decades ago that woven into the social fabric, corruption was now a culture - a way of life for people - and very difficult to handle. But this does not mean we should throw our arms in the air. Surely, with strong political will and a sustained onslaught on the menace we will be able to keep it at bay.
Source: Public Agenda

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