IMANI Petitions President Akufo-Addo: Why Ghana Link’s Terminated ‘Single-Window’ Contract in Sierra Leone Should Guide Ghana’s UNI-PASS Customs and Ports Technology Contract



Dear Mr. President,






Why Ghana Link’s Terminated ‘Single-Window’ Contract in Sierra Leone Should Guide Ghana’s UNI-PASS Customs and Ports Technology Contract- IMANI Petitions President

I bring you warm greetings and extend appreciation of the entire IMANI team to you for the bold and decisive leadership you have exhibited in leading the country to contain and suppress the dreaded novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19/2019-nCoV). May we come out stronger more united and focused on delivering more reliable and resilient healthcare systems to our people.

As you may be aware, IMANI has been an ardent advocate for free enterprise solutions to the continent’s economic woes. We have conducted several economic audits on Ghana, reviewed Ghana’s performance on global indexes and published recommendations on how the country can improve its competitiveness, especially on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.

Over the last three years in particular, we have been studying Ghana’s port systems and engaging relevant players, bilaterally and in forums. The business reform agenda of the current government, and its direct impact on our ports has been noteworthy. The enhanced paperless system at the ports has not only resulted in overall increased revenues for the state [nominal growth of 15% between 2018 and 2019, from Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) records, even after reducing benchmark values by 35% for imported vehicles and 50% for general goods], it has projected Ghana as a major facilitator of trade in the sub region. It is fitting that we are hosting the secretariat for Africa’s free trade project, the AfCFTA.

Table1: Ghana Revenue Authority, Customs Division Revenue Performance from 2015-2019

Year

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Customs

Division

Revenue

Performance

(GHS)

7,018,166,950

8,961,650,000

12,689,690,000

13,241,310,021

*12,070,506,208

*Direct impact of government’s directive to reduce benchmark values of 35% on imported vehicles and 50% on imported general goods

Sustaining this impressive record, however, requires policy predictability and coherence in the dispensation of regulatory mandates of the Ministries of Trade & Industry and Finance & Economic Planning. This expectation remains doubtful as the two ministries are bent on replacing the more reliable existing customs and ports technologies with a more expensive one called UNI-PASS.

In March 2018, Ghana Link Network Services Limited, in collaboration with Customs UNI-PASS International Agency (CUPIA) of Korea Customs Services, were contracted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to introduce UNI-PASS to the ports system for a period ten years and at a cost of US$40m.

The latter’s potential impact on the trading community and revenue generation for government have been unanimously bemoaned by many users of the ports who have witnessed poorly executed and unsuccessful piloting of UNIPASS at many of our critical ports and borders.

However, what should be of utmost importance to you is the documentation over Ghana Link’s contract for similar services promised in Sierra Leone.

The government of Sierra Leone entered into an agreement with Ghana Link and its subsidiary, Africa Link Inspection Company(ALIC), which among other things, the latter was expected to ‘’develop, implement and keep up-to-date Computerized Risk Management System’’. After six years in operation, Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Finance undertook an audit and review of the operations of Africa Link Inspection Company.

Apart from significant findings of tax evasion, one other finding that give us cause for worry about the capability of Ghana Link to successfully implement in Ghana, is the one Sierra Leone’s Solicitor-General captures in his December 8 th 2019 legal opinion to Sierra Leone’s Financial Secretary, for the termination of Ghana Link’s contract as

  •  “ALIC had not been complying with section 4.3 of the agreement in respect of training programmes dealing with local and overseas training courses in the areas of computerised Risk Management System, Transaction Price data and other areas of inspection”.

Respectfully, Mr. President, this is at the core of the business of any computerised customs inspection. For this defect to rise to the level as to constitute a major finding against Ghana Link means Sierra Leone was exposed to significant risks of unwholesome importation and crucially revenue losses.

Mr. President, in its January 30th 2020 letter to the Minister of Trade and Industry instructing it to terminate the government’s contract with Ghana Link and ALIC, Sierra Leone’s Chief Minister, Professor David J. Francis cited among other reasons the following;

  • As part of the inspection Agreement, ALIC was to develop the single window concept. This TradeNet messaging software allows End Users, Declarants, Ministries, Departments and Agencies to exchange data to and from the system. This aspect of the agreement was not complied with or implemented by ALIC
  • ALIC had not been fully complying with section 4.3 of the agreement in respect of training programmes dealing with local and overseas training courses in the areas of computerised Risk Management System, Transaction Price data and other areas of inspection”
  • There is no evidence that the company has paid corporation tax to Government. A recent tax audit conducted by the National Revenue Authority (NRA) reveals that the company tax liability is about Le45 billion.

It is important to note that Ghana’s trade and finance ministers and their deputies continue to make the case for Ghana Link to replace existing systems that are working perfectly fine on the basis of Ghana Link’s superiority in implementing the two functions mentioned and promised in Sierra Leone, but which, evidently has failed for six years, eventually leading to termination of its agreement. They were meant to develop a single window and this is yet to be implemented after Six years. This could only mean one thing- that Ghana Link did not have the capacity to simultaneously implement the components they signed up to.

I have attached copies of letters from Sierra Leone’s Chief Minister and Solicitor-General to this letter.

Mr. President, it may interest you to know that prior to petitioning you, we have asked the following questions of the Economic Management Team (EMT), the Trade and Finance Ministries. With the exception of the EMT, that has taken steps to mediate between competing vendors and the two ministries, the two ministries have disregarded the EMT’s directives on ensuring live demonstrations to ascertain UNI-PASS’ superiority. The Senior Minister’s office has compounded the confusion by issuing counter directives to Ghana Link to proceed with implementation when the following questions and observations have not been answered nor debunked.

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