Fraud At Tema Port; Ghana Loses USD150 Million Monthly

The Centre for Freedom and Accuracy in partnership with Tiger Eye Private Investigation, has mentioned Ghana’s Ports as one of the institutions that bring a lot of shame and disgrace amongst Ghanaians and in the eyes of the international community. According to the centre, its painstaking investigations into activities at the ports have revealed that some individuals working at these ports in connivance with some unscrupulous private sector operators are harming the nation by denying it of the badly needed revenue for development. It would be recalled that the Centre for Freedom and Accuracy in collaboration with Tiger Eye Private Investigators in April this year, launched the National Anti-Corruption Campaign. At that launch, it enumerated a number of strategies for the campaign including naming, shaming and jailing. At their maiden press conference in Accra yesterday to formally begin the campaign, the Executive Director of the Centre, Mr Andrew Awuni, said the state of Ghana was in danger of losing control over its resources and sources of revenue to private individuals, some of whom are foreigners whilst many are citizens of this country. He said “our ports are not only porous but they have become the private concessions of many individuals who daily share the revenues gathered there with the state,” saying “in fact, these private individuals even take the larger share of what should legitimately be going to the state.” From conservative estimates, according to the centre, “our experts tell us that the country is losing over USD150 million every month to individuals and private companies in taxes, import levies and excise duties.” He also said that smuggling at the country’s borders were on the increase, revenue was dropping and the level of indiscipline amongst offices at these Ports and Borders was declining.” He said for about a month now, the research wing of the National Anti-Corruption Campaign has been conducting some undercover investigations at the Tema Port and the discoveries of the investigations were revealing. “We have in our possession video footage and hard copies of very damning documentary evidence of the rottenness at the Tema Port which we ... first have to share with the relevant Government institutions for appropriate action to be taken,” he told the media representatives. Nevertheless, sharing some hard facts with the media, Mr Awuni said their investigations had established that scores of containers of imported goods escaped the tax net daily, under the very watch of the security agents and customs officials at the Tema Port. “We also discovered that two retired service officials who operate their own clearing agencies are at the centre of a massive tax evasion syndicate at the Tema Port,” he stated and went on to explain that “their modus operandi is that the two connive with some serving officers at the Port to ignore the inspection process and give their own descriptions to containers on custom documentation to attract very little or no tax at all.” Mr Awuni then took the media representatives through video footage and exclusive documents on most of the containers that passed through the Port in 2012 and 2013, showing the Ports of Departure and Arrival, Final Destinations of the containers and the description of their contents. The names of the Consignees were withheld for what Mr Awuni said were security reasons. From the presentation, most of the containers were described as carrying low Valued Goods such as foodstuff, provisions and super market or house hold items. In the case of high valued frozen foods such as chicken leg quarters, they are mostly described as chicken parts to attract lower duties. Curiously, according to Mr Awuni, most of the consignees are people who are known to be owners or related to owners of major trading companies in the country trading in stuffs other than those mentioned in the containers. Mr Anas Arimeyaw, who is the Executive Director of Tiger Eye Private Investigation, identified bearucracy, poor condition of service, manipulation of the electronic system as some of the causes of many financial leakages within the system. He said through corrupt practices “a lot more people are getting away for not paying the right taxes.” He stressed the need for improved conditions of service for Port officials, regular monitoring, reshuffling of Port officials, as well as embarking on an audit of the entire operations at the port every three months as some of the measures that could help deal or block financial leakages within the system. He said “just monitoring and evaluating the electronic systems alone can expose the companies and individuals engaged in the corrupt practices,” adding, “We have a collective responsibility to clean up and sustain the work we are doing to check corruption in Ghana.”