Presidential Task Force Corrupt - Importers

A group calling itself concerned local importers have accused the taskforce set up by the President to check corrupt practices at the nation’s entry ports of being involved in fraudulent activities and “making the process not only cumbersome but frustrating.” They have, therefore, appealed to President John Dramani Mahama to dissolve the task force and rather constitute a committee made up of all stakeholders to recommend solutions to solve the corruption challenges affecting revenue generation. A statement signed by the chairperson for the group, Ms Paulina Amoah, said although the government had explained that the rationale of the task force was to check corruption their experiences showed the contrary. It said if the problems and others were not addressed they would be forced to relocate to Togo to clear their goods and do business, and that “our operations are likely to affect the revenue generation of the state and will go a long way to affect the nation’s development”. Narrating their problems, the group mentioned the issue of disparity between the values given by the Destination Inspection Companies and that of Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (CEPS), as the CEPS imposed higher values of goods on importers in order to meet their revenue target. It said this also unfortunately increased their costs and virtually put them out of business because they were unable to pay back the already high interest rate on bank loans. The group also said importers and agents had to queue for as long as five days or more to get access to the scanner because the scanners often developed faults due to pressure since they scanned more than the expected 20 containers daily. “These delays are affecting our business and making it difficult for us to pay the bank loans on time though already the depreciating cedi is resulting in huge losses further affecting our operations,” the statement added. It said it took about 10 days before they were able to completely clear their goods from the preventive checks centre of the National Security and the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA). “After all these, we have to unload the goods on our way to the destination points since the task force will also have to inspect the goods for verification. All these are gravely hampering our smooth operations,” it said and pleaded with the government to help make the processes flexible. Another issue the statement raised was the maltreatment meted out to them by officials at the ports as local importers while expatriates were allowed to operate freely in the country. The group added that although the expatriates were only to engage in wholesale activities, they had also started engaging in retail trade which was the sole preserve of local retailers. The statement alleged that expatriates had been given much privilege to operate to the detriment of the local importer. It said the expatriates had been allowed to establish large warehouses where their goods were kept as they went about processing documents to completely settle their duties thereby spending less time in clearing their goods. “In addition, when the goods are conveyed to the so-called warehouses, that is where the customs officers go to scan the consignments. Because we do not have such warehouses, we spend many days in the queue to have our goods scanned”, the statement added. Daily Graphic/Ghana