Information trickling into SCANDAL?s newsroom indicates that Ghana, your beloved country has been hit by a judgment debt of USD1billion-the biggest judgment debt ever to be recorded in the country?s history.

According to our sources the judgment was given at the International Court of Justice in The Hague last week in favor of BANKSWITCH a company whose contract to provide a software and data and also set up a Valuation Module for the Ghana Custom Service and the Ghana Revenue Authority was abrogated by the Mills administration in 2010.

The introduction of BANKSWITCH into Ghana in 2007 was facilitated by a World Bank Loan to provide software and data as well as establish the Valuation Module which would be owned by the Ghana Government and operated by the Customs Service and the GRA to help stem the huge losses of revenue the country records at the ports.

This move would have sidelined the private Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) who have taken over all activities at the port and have thus rendered the Customs Division and GRA redundant and powerless in the determination of import values and taxes at the Port.

Unfortunately some Government Officials preferred to have these private DICs do all the scanning, verification and valuation of all imports into the country and actually pushed for the abrogation of the Bankswitch contract which has eventually landed the country in this unprecedented USD1billion debt.

In our 8th, 9th and 10th editions in June 2013, SCANDAL hinted on this case at The Hague and warned that if measures were not taken for a settlement the country will pay dearly for the ?mistakes? of the Government Officials. This is what we wrote;

On Friday the 21st May 2010, the late President Mills met with the Managing Directors of all the Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) operating in the country at the Castle. The meeting was to examine the problems bedeviling Ghana?s Valuation Systems at our Ports which was causing serious revenue losses to the state.

In attendance was the then Chief of Staff Mr. Henry Martey Newman, the then Minister of Finance Dr. Kwabena Duffour, Honorable Hannah Tetteh, then Minister of Trade, the Commission of Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), the Commissioner General of the Ghana Revenues Authority and some others including some Deputy Ministers.

At that Meeting, the Commissioner-General of the GRA and the Commissioner of Customs made presentations and demonstrated to the President how the state was losing Millions of dollars on a regular basis at the Ports through the alleged connivance and falsification of documents by some DICs and Importers.

The two argued that with the support of Bankswitch?s software, the CEPS could take over the valuation duties at the Ports to help stem the huge losses of revenue the country was recording. At this meeting a brief power point presentation showed how the country lost a total of GHc12.6million in only six transactions. (Averagely the Tema Port records about 25,000 transactions every month).

This revelation shocked the President and he instructed that the CEPS be allowed to run its own Valuation System for a Three Month period so that a final decision could be taken. WHAT THE PRESIDENT AND THE TWO GENTLEMEN WHO MADE THE PRESENTATION DID NOT KNOW WAS THAT SOME PEOPLE IN THAT MEETING WERE NOT GOING TO GIVE UP THAT EASILY. And so the instruction was allegedly ignored and till date the old order prevails and the revenues losses continue to increase.

Indeed as it stands now, the customs service is very redundant at all the country?s major ports. Scanning and valuation which should be the core duty of the custom service at these ports have been taken over by private companies allegedly belonging to politicians.

Some other reports say that where the companies and or agencies are not directly owned by politicians, the private owners are strong political party people and have their apron strings tied to political parties and are major financiers of these parties.

The Ghana port and Harbors Authority (GPHA) itself, as a Government institution, is heavily politicized and suffers the usual mass political dismissals or changes with the change of every government. The Authority, after every new regime gets a new head who in turn makes sure that all strategic institutions and departments in the port are manned by people who are favorable to the new regime.

Where these old institutions cannot be STOPPED OR changed all together, additional institutions with links to the new regime are created and all or most contracts are diverted to these new ones. The companies that are critical to the work of the port are the destination inspection companies (DICs), clearing agencies, the security services and the port or container management services.

As mentioned earlier, the DICs handle the scanning of all imports and all the valuations so as to determine the import duties each importer is supposed to pay. Ironically in the last two decades, the new patriotic party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) the two political parties that have had the chance to run the affairs of Ghana have brought in new DICs at every opportunity for reasons best known to them.

During NDC one under President Rawlings and the then Vice President Mills, the NDC brought in the Gateway Services Limited and BIVAC as the first DICs to be introduced at our ports. That was when the job of inspection and valuation was first taken away from the country?s customs service and given to these private companies.

When the NPP took over in 2001 they also introduced two new DICs namely; Inspection Control Services (ICS) and Ghana link Network Services to share in the scanning and valuation of all imports at the ports. Come 2010 and under NDC two, when the late President Mills was in-charge with Mrs. Hannah Tetteh as his Trades Minister they introduced yet another DIC namely; Wenfonten, bringing the total number of DICs for a small country like Ghana to five (5). Nigeria with over i50 million people and annual imports that are four times larger than Ghana?s imports, has only three destination Inspection companies (DICs)

These DICs have literally taken over the work of our customs service. so even though the impression is given that the ports are manned by the custom service, the reality is that the custom service has virtually nothing to do at the port.

It is actually the DICs and the clearing agencies that do all the work. Ironically the DICs employ the services of retired and serving customs officers to work for them. The whole world is categorized into five zones and allocated to each DIC and they handle imports coming from their respective zones for a processing fee of one per cent on all import duties.

Indeed Scandal investigations show that only .82 per cent of the one per cent goes to the DICs but we are yet to find out who benefits from the remaining .18 per cent.

The same can be said of the clearing agencies especially the big ones that handle large volumes of imports. They allegedly belong to politicians or their owners are undercover political party financiers and therefore untouchable.

Now here is the crux of the matter: when imports arrive at the port it is the port services companies (also allegedly linked to political parties) that handle the containers. Then clearing agencies are appointed to clear the goods. These clearing agencies approach the DICs whose duty is to scan the imports and value them to determine the import duties to be paid by the importer. The DICs prepare what is called the final classification and valuation report (FCVR) that is like the final invoice for payment. This is where the problem of corruption and revenue leakages begins.

Source: The Scandal

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