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There is a popular adage which says that ''little drop of water makes a mighty ocean'', which I literary share the wisdom in it, if as a nation every concerted effort would be made by the government to substantially reduce the taxes levied on the imported goods into the country, it would help to widen the tax net which would eventually bring about revenue maximisation at the port.
And from the look of things, importers and clearing agents and other detailed security apparatus at the ports are cunningly cheating on the system because of the skyrocketed import duties for which unscrupulous people would always find short corners in swindling the state; as a result colossal amounts of monies get into the individual hands.
The question that many well meaning Ghanaians would be asking is why these conspiratorial syndicates to defraud the system in spite of all these checks being put in place at the ports.
My humble answer to this stems from the fact that import duties are extremely exorbitant, that is why most people even find solace in routing their imported goods through neighbouring countries such as Togo, hence, clearing agents and importers in Ghana would always collude to defraud the state, consequently, huge sums of monies are lost to the state.
Nonetheless, if government want to realise fully the expected income from taxes, it is incumbent upon it to take pragmatic measures in order to nip this corruptible canker in the bud once and for all before it overwhelms the nation and denies it of revenues that could otherwise be used to address most of its social and economic burden and also save the country from the consistent embarrassments and disappointments it suffers through the over reliance on donor funding.
Experts say that about ninety percent (90%) of revenue generated at the ports drains into the pockets of individuals and if all attempt would be taken to cut-down import duty taxes to the barest minimum and to also reduce the unnecessary bureaucracy in the scheme of things, the corrupt practices by the officials who engaged in it would be dwindled and save the country with badly needed revenues to develop the country, The onus then lies on the shoulders of the government to do something about the issue to ensure that the revenues generated from Ghana’s Harbours are being secure for the state.
The Executive Director for Centre for freedom and accuracy, Mr Andrews Awuni, at a press conference in Accra said they have in their possession a video footage and hard copies of damming documentary evidence of the rottenness at the Tema port.
He went on to say that smuggling at the country boarders were on the increase, according to their recent undercover operations and that his outfit would share those evidences with the government and other relevant agencies to unravel those milking the state millions of its income at the country’s ports. This singular gesture to me must be commended and embraced in order to sanitise the system and punish the offending partners to serve as a deterrent to others.
At the importers forum in Tamale for stakeholders associated with the importation of high risk goods into the country some time back, the former Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Hon. Dr. J.S. Annan, disclosed that government had signed an agreement with Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNET), in lowering transaction cost at the port, in the year 2000, to fully automate the customs clearance system and to network other stakeholders involved in the import trade businesses, for effective revenue maximizations in the country, this is certainly a novelty to me, but the bigger issue is that to what extend has it helped in curbing the corrupt practices at the Ghana’s port.
Given the recent special presidential tax force to plug in the loopholes at the ports, it was revealed that the clearing agents most often than not disclose under invoice to cheat the state, but the lingering question one may asked is that how could they produce under invoice if the system worked perfectly.
This I think calls for critical scrutiny as nation to ensure value for money.
At the said function a resource person said the system of ensuring that appropriate taxes levied on the imported commodities, are adhered to, by improving on the revenue maximization so that revenue collected, becomes optimized and smuggling are also checked or minimized.
Again all these measures have not live up to expectation therefore, methinks that the services of fraud experts could also be sought for by the nation to thwart the underhand dealings of the officials who connive to loot the state at our ports.
In an interview with a clearing agent on phone from the Tema port, who preferred her name to remain under the condition of anonymity indicated that most of the importers and the clearing agents do not declare the relevant documents that spell out the appropriate descriptions of their consignment because they think that twenty percent (20%) charges on their goods are outrageous.
She added that CEPS officials and all other revenue collecting agents for the government, appears to be entertaining some form of fears, that if they do not defraud the system since their retirement take home pay is nothing to write home about, they will suffer in the end. She suggested that in order to for-stall revenue leakages at the ports, conditions of service for the government officials be improved significantly in order to boost their morale and to also assure them of their future financial security.
Conclusion: the cumbersome bureaucratic process that it takes to clear goods from the ports is one of the key factors in robbing the state. It is also refreshing that with all these efforts put in place to prevent leakages, monies still exchange hands with the agencies detailed at the ports, therefore, these long channels and procedurals must be stopped once they are not helping to defuse the corrupt menace at Ghana’s entering points and introduce viable alternatives and also seek for best practices elsewhere such as what the Republic of Togo has been doing in drastically reducing their import duties,
Through this quest every drop of revenue would be realized to build a mighty nation for the country.
source: Alhassan Abubakar Sadik (ISD)