ROLE OF UNIPASS IN NATIONAL REVENUE MOBILISATION
Contrary to the stance and expectations of some stakeholders in the import and export business; and civil society groups, the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has implemented UNIPASS/Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS) at the Tema Port and other ports of entry across the country. It replaced the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) ran collectively by Ghana Community Network Services GCNet and Customs World of Dubai, formerly known as West Blue Consult.
The imminent question is, why has GRA resorted to the implementation of the UNIPASS/ICUMS platform in spite of strong opposition by key stakeholders in the import and export business? The UNIPASS/ICUMS platform has a set of features that accentuate its acceptance and implementation over the Ghana Community Management System.
First, it has a stand-by human resource management model that facilitates identification of officers who worked on given cargos and the time during which the work was carried out and completed. Also, tracing missing cargos or goods under the UNIPASS/ICUMS platform is very simple. Thirdly, UNIPASS/ICUMS has an exclusive tracking device for all cargos. This helps to identify each cargo using a unique reference number.
The revenue mobilisation trend of GRA through the implementation of the Ghana Customs Management System in recent years revealed a monthly minimum revenue of 800 million Ghana Cedis and a maximum of one point two billion Ghana Cedis. The average monthly revenue collection under the Ghana Customs Management System was estimated at 940 million Ghana Cedis.
Proponents of the UNIPASS/ICUMS platform argue that, if in the midst of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, GRA was able to rake-in one point two billion Ghana Cedis within one month, then country stands to benefit a great deal from its full implementation in the post-COVID-19 period. The implementation of the UNIPASS/ICUMS at the outset was fraught with challenges. This notwithstanding, economic benefits of its implementation in the immediate-, medium- and long-term are expected to be phenomenal.
UNIPASS/ICUMS has an end-to-end system which does not allow operators to tamper with figures on it. This feature was not prevalent under the GCMS. Operators of the GCMS could tamper with figures entered there-in. The digital nature of the UNIPASS/ICUMS platform allows it to fit into the digitisation programme and paperless system of the Akufo-Addo-led administration.
The system was introduced to provide swift customs clearance, seal the leaking national revenue basket, and facilitate trade at the country’s ports and borders. Under the old GCMS, valuation and classification as well as risk management and payment were carried out by different entities. This created room for revenue leakages and undue delays in the cargo clearance process at the ports. Under the new UNIPASS/ICUMS platform, the foregoing processes are completed through a single window.
Indeed, the new system is intended to present comprehensive and easy-to-use digital customs system to the Ghanaian market, without compromising international standards. It is perceived by many analysts as the long-awaited “Messiah” of Ghana’s leaking revenue basket. Services related to the UNIPASS/ICUMS platform are to be provided to the Ghanaian economy by the Customs UNIPASS International Agency (CUPIA), a South Korean organisation established in 2006 to provide customs modernisation consulting services; and to develop and operate e-customs and single window systems in economies across the globe.
The effectiveness and credibility of the system at the global level are evident in the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business rankings. The strong impact of UNIPASS/ICUMS on economies across the globe cannot be overemphasized; the system has the potential to transfer economic growth to the Ghanaian economy; and enhance the country’s chances of improving her Ease of Doing Business rankings instituted by the World Bank Group. Total domestic revenue for the first quarter of this year was estimated at more than ten billion Ghana Cedis. This represents about two-point six percent of projected Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for this year and about 25 point nine percent lower than the targeted revenue of 13 point five billion Ghana Cedis which represents three point five of projected GDP during the first quarter of the year. The obvious revenue under-performance during the first quarter was a reflection of shortfalls in non-tax and tax revenues.
Consequently, introduction of the UNIPASS/ICUMS platform is expected to mitigate shortfalls in tax revenue collection; and close the relatively wide fiscal gap created by massive expenditure in the area of health, and on the collective fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. It is hoped challenges associated with effective implementation of the UNIPASS/ICUMS platform would be addressed, to enable freight forwarders and other key stakeholders in the export and import business to derive maximum benefit while contributing meaningfully to the national revenue mobilisation drive.
Dr Ebenezer Ashley, Chartered Economist and Financial Consultant