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Business News of Thursday, 21 May 2020


CSO urges govt to suspend UNIPASS system for further consultation

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A civil society organisation, Mass Action Committee (MAC), is urging government to suspend the UNIPASS implementation project to allow further consultations and due diligence in order to avoid revenue losses to the country.

Government, as part of its efforts to maximise revenue from international trade, conceived the idea of having a single window system at the country’s entry points. Giving effect and meaning to this noble and efficiency-enhancing mechanism has over the years led government to engage the services of entities like GCNet, WESTBLUE, SML and Ghana Link among others. Those bodies performed varied functions within the scope of the single window system.

However, upon assumption of office by the Akufo-Addo-led government, a contract was awarded for Ghana Link to provide the UNIPASS platform that will replace the GCNET/Westblue software.

A statement signed by the convener of Mass Action Group, Atik Mohammed, argued that the resultant UNIPASS Ghana which was created from the contractual engagement is fraught with many technical and other challenges having a propensity to give government a raw deal.

“And to that extent, we in the Mass Action Committee (MAC) are demanding government suspends the UNIPASS Ghana deal to allow for further due diligence and value for money analysis,” the statement said.

The group said if government allows the UNIPASS arrangement to stand, “It will be perilously gambling with our revenue mobilisation efforts with a system that is not end-to-end, has no proven record of performance anywhere, and more significantly will be breeding a monopoly – which situation poses a danger to revenue generation”.

According to MAC, the UNIPASS software is far from being qualified as an end–to-end system because it does not include a manifest platform. “The Manifest Module constitutes the basic and first Customs Declaration Entry Point. Absent this Manifest Module, it is impossible to process any Declaration.

“This defect therefore belies the claim that the Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS) is an all-in-one Customs management solution. It is important to state that this obvious deficiency with the so-called UNIPASS Ghana platform arises, in large part, from how the very software was developed,” it further explained.

Contrary to the agreement to engage the original CUPIA (Customs UNIPASS International Agency) of Korea, the UNIPASS Ghana software was built by some Koreans brought in by Ghana Link on UNIPASS KOREA’s technology. Although this technology was named UNIPASS Ghana by those Koreans, it is not the original UNIPASS software built by CUPIA, the statement added.

“The non-end-to-end capability of the UNIPASS system was exposed during the trials in Aflao, Tema and Takoradi. The system failed abysmally. Subsequent to this failure, Ghana lost GH¢66,000,000 in the first two days of implementation – thus exposing the UNIPASS system’s inability to measure up to standards of the GCNET Platform.

“It is also noteworthy that given the irredeemable tragedy occasioned by the system’s inefficiency during the test runs, a reluctant re-adoption of the manual system for clearing goods was resorted to at the Aflao Border and Takoradi Port,” the group pointed out.