The Freight Forwarding fraternity in Ghana has kicked against government’s intended policy to allow the self-clearing of goods by importers without recourse to Customs House Agents.
The freight forwarders have opined that not only does this threaten the security of their jobs but the policy, if not well implemented can have dire implications on trade facilitation and revenue mobilization for the state.
Speaking on the Eye on Port TV program, the Presidents of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) and the Association of Customs House Agents, Ghana (ACHAG), said government may need to thoroughly reconsider the implementation of this policy which was announced during this year’s budget reading in parliament.
According to the President of ACHAG, Yaw Kyei, “government will lose a lot.”
He explained that importers by themselves do not have the capacity to execute the clearance of goods by themselves due to the rigorous technical process involves in customs business.
“This system is not something you can take a day or two to go through. I wonder how we will train and educate the general public from all across the country to successfully do a declaration to clear goods at the ports. We believe that asking individuals to clear goods by themselves will be disastrous for the nation,” he exclaimed.
“Will we be able be identify the importer after the transaction has ended? What is his address? Our address system in Ghana is nothing to write home about,” Mr. Kyei continued.
The President of ACHAG said, on the other hand, customs house agents, or clearing agents, as they are commonly referred, are taken through training, certification, licensing, registration and other necessary procedures that ensure that their activities are accountable and traceable.
“We have our offices properly inspected. Our companies are properly instituted, we have board of directors, a management team, and assets recognized by customs and by the state so that in the event something goes wrong, you can fall on any of them,” he added.
The President of GIFF, Eddy Akrong doubled down on that notion, saying millions of cedis are recovered by Customs during Post-Clearance Audit due to the existence of clearing and forwarding agents.
“If an individual clears goods, and for some reason customs detects any malfeasance, they come through us. Imagine if this individual comes from some far place across the globe, Customs will have to spread themselves thin to get hold of this person, without us.”
Mr. Akrong said his outfit isn’t against the concept of self-declarants as Ghana’s law already makes provision for that, so far as companies can apply for training and licensing to be able to clear their own goods.
He however stated that the freight forwarding fraternity will only feel short-changed if the rigorous, expensive processes undergone to train, certify, license, register, are relinquished in service of this new regime.
The President of GIFF explained that importers already inundated with their business load, simply lack the time and knowhow to undergo customs house processes.
He said Ghana’s clearance system as it stands has the clearing agent acting as a liaison between importers, shipping lines, customs administrations, several regulatory agencies, terminal operators, and the processes involved require some level of technical ability and tact to efficiently execute.
“The whole system will become confusing because the trader will have to deal with all these people,” he warned.
The leadership of these freight forwarding associations expressed suspicion that this impending regime of self-clearing stems from the need to abide by the World Trade Organization’s objectives for trade facilitation. Yet, they asked government to tarry awhile while it take initiatives that cater to the context of Ghana’s maritime trade.
In the meantime, they have continued to petition government especially parliament to clarify the nature of the impending policy action, with focus on the implications on job security, and security of state revenue.