Ghana – Integrated Customs Management Systems to be mandatory in June 2020

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has stated that effective June 1, 2020, all transactions related to the import and export of goods at the various ports in the country shall be processed through the Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS).

The move, according to the GRA, was aimed at coordinating all import and export activities at the ports on a single platform to reduce cost in clearing and exporting of goods.

ICUMS  is a new port clearing system that processes documents and payments through one window and the system is a departure from the previous system where ‘valuation and classification’ and ‘risk management and payment’ were handled by different entities.

The deployment of ICUMS, which started yesterday at the Tema Port and all other entry points, is envisaged to replace the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAARS) which was being handled West Blue and the GCMS which was jointly operated by the Customs Division of GRA and GCNet.

The GRA in a press statement issued in Accra on Monday, signed by the Acting Commissioner-General, Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah and copied to the Ghanaian Times, however, said between April 28, 2020 and May 31, 2020, transactions in respect of import and export manifest can be processed through either the ICUMS or the Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS) for the Tema Port as well as all other entry points.

 “All existing transactions commencing prior to the 31st of May 2020 for which processing have not been completed in the GCMS (before or after payment of duty) shall be processed through the ICUMS,” the statement said.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry in March 2018 signed a contract with the Ghana Link Network Services Limited in collaboration with Customs UNI-PASS International Agency (CUPIA) of Korea Customs Services to introduce the UNI-PASS Systems in Ghana for a period of ten years at a cost of $40 million.

However, the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) has kicked against the government contract with Ghana Link Network Services and the implementation of the UNI-PASS system in Ghana.

According to the Institute, the GCNet and West Blue Consulting systems were superior and were working perfectly and thus there was no need for a new system.

GIFF in a situation report on the deployment of UNIPASS/ICUMS at Takoradi copied to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyeremanteng, cited by this paper, cautioned that the nationwide implementation of the UNI-PASS system, now Integrated Customs Management System will adversely affect their operations.

“The myriad of problems facing declarants mostly due to lack of proper mapping of the process flow, inadequate training of declarants and unresolved systemic issues must be addressed,” the report said. 

But government in a statement it issued a couple of weeks ago debunked reports that UNI-PASS, has no track record and the required competence to execute the work at hand and  that the UNI-PASS technology had not been deployed or tested anywhere in the world was inaccurate.

“The UNI-PASS technology has been deployed successfully in Tanzania since 2015 under the name Tancis, which World Customs Organisation (WCO) has acclaimed as one of the best innovative trade facilitation systems. Cameroun, like Ghana, has deployed the same technology after successfully developing their system early this year,” the statement said.

“The decision to discontinue with the services of GCNet and other service providers was informed by the need to replace the multiplicity of vendors with a single service provider deploying an end-to-end system,” the statement said.

Source: article by Kingsley Asare, Ghanaian Times, 29 April 2020

SA Customs Procedure Guideline and Chart – 2019

SARS Customs clearance has operated under a Customs Procedure Code (CPC) regime for almost 10 years now. To commemorate the 10-year anniversary, the accompanying CPC Chart and External User Guideline is intended for expert users and newcomers to Customs clearance, alike. In particular, it is important for cross-border traders to understand that the CPC combinations cannot be used indiscriminately; but, have specific meanings and associations with various other Customs rules for the electronic processing of goods for import, transit and export. Attempts to ‘fudge’ a CPC for any particular purpose or reason, may lead to a negative result downstream. Accuracy in the use and application of CPCs results in improved trade compliance, more accurate trade statistical data and fewer declaration amendments hence less penalties and lost time. Over the last decade, it is certain that most international freight forwarders and tertiary Customs training institutes and universities have introduced some or other CPC methodology into their curricula. Feel free to use this guide in support of such curricula. I do however, request that in so doing, the attached material – made freely available to you – will be delivered ‘intact’ in the form as compiled and presented here.

The files can be dowloaded below –

External CPC Tutorial & Self-Assessment Guide 2019

CPC Chart October 2019

Weight or number? Indian Customs seeks to bring uniformity to measurement of goods

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Are toilet seats bought by the kilogram or on a per piece basis? Should tableware or porcelain be measured by weight or as a unit? Likewise with a coffee table — weight or number? The answers may seem obvious but they’re not. Differences in commercial practices and customs guidelines on the measurement of some goods may have wreaked havoc with the country’s trade statistics, not to mention sparking a plethora of disputes and delays in the clearance of consignments.

The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), India has now begun a review of standard unit quantity codes (UQC) to address the issue and help improve the ease of doing business while reducing the scope for disputes. India has already identified ‘trade across borders’ as one of the areas where it can show substantial improvement in ease of doing business.

India is ranked 119 on this count in the World Bank’s latest rankings.

“There are issues particularly in some tariff lines… We are now looking at how we can bring about uniformity,” said a government official. For instance, UQC for products under Heading 6911— tableware, kitchenware and other household articles, and toilet articles of porcelain or china—is in kilogram.

However, the trade transacts in units or by number of pieces. Moreover, there is no uniformity in UQC declarations by traders. These are not the same for a particular item at different customs locations. The World Customs Organization has prescribed standard UQCs that are used internationally. India implemented mandatory standard UQCs from 2013 as part of export-import declarations.

There are inconsistencies in the way these have been applied. Variance in codes is approved by field officials, which makes the system subject to discretion and interpretation. CBEC has reached out to the industry to arrive at ways in which the matter can be addressed.

“Use of standardised UQC as prescribed in Customs Tariff Act, 1975, is a challenge at times faced by trade due to different market practices,” said Rahul Shukla, executive director, PwC.

“The same has been recognized by the customs authorities and they have supported the trade in resolving it as well on case-to-case basis. Shukla said the proposed move by CBEC to take another look at UQCs prescribed in the Customs Tariff Act and align them with practice was a positive move and in line with the continued commitment to trade facilitation.

“It will help if CBEC can consider allowing multiple UQCs for the same commodity or adopting a particular UQC which is used more frequently by trade,” he said. India jumped 30 places to 100 in World Bank’s overall ease of doing business rankings in the latest listing released in October after undertaking various reforms to improve the environment. Source: By Deepshikha Sikarwar, The Economic Times, India, 8 January 2018.

Kenya Single Window Agency accuses KRA of Sabotage

KentradeThe Kenya Trade Network Agency, operator of the National Electronic Single Window System, has refuted claims by some clearing agents that the platform is lapsing. KenTrade has instead blamed slow integration of its system on the continued parallel use of the Kenya Revenue Authority’s systems – the Orbus and Simba. Currently, importers are using both systems to process documents such as import permits.

Project director Amos Wangora said there is need to retire Orbus system for agents to embrace the Single Window System, particularly in filing Import Declaration Forms. Kentrade accused KRA officials of avoiding the Single Window System.

“We don’t have any problem in the use of the Single Window System. It’s only people who don’t want to embrace the new system. Those using it are doing good only for some KRA officials who still want to use the Orbus system,” said Wangora in an interview on Friday.

KenTrade is the state agency tasked with facilitating cross-border trade through the Single Window System.

Wangora said only three modules remain for the Single Window System to be completed fully – include on declaration submission, bonds and exemption. Testing of the declaration submission module is on and is expected to be completed by 20 January 2015.

A section of clearing agents had raised concerns over delays in cargo clearance at the port of Mombasa under the Single Window System. Yesterday, the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association, Mombasa chapter, said KRA officials prefer their own system, which “lacks transparency”.

A clearing agent told the Star that one has to personally push for services, which involves handouts, under the KRA system. Kentrade has since written to KRA commissioner-general to halt the Orbus system on January 31.

The Single Window System integrates about 24 government agencies’ functions, offering a one-stop shop for processing import and export permit documents.  More than 6,000 imports and exports permits were issued under the new system last year, including permits from Kenya Bureau of Standards and Ministry of Health’s veterinary and pharmaceutical departments.

About 1,200 clearing agents, shipping agents, consolidators and partner government agencies will be trained on the remaining modules. Kentrade targets to have the system fully embraced by all stakeholders by July, with the country set to go paperless by 2015. Source: The Star (Kenya)

Vietnam Customs to Push Ahead with New e-Customs System

Picture1The Japanese-funded e-Customs system known as “VNACCS/VCIS” (Vietnam Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System and the Vietnam Customs Information System) is set to “go live” on April 1, 2014.

Based on the NACCS/CIS of Japan, VNACCS/VCIS is intended to handle e-Declaration, e-Manifest, e-Invoice, e-Payment, e-C/O, selectivity, risk management/criteria, corporate management, goods clearance and release, supervision and inspection.

With the launch of the VNACCS/VCIS, Vietnam Customs is trying to simplify customs clearance procedures, reduce clearance time, enhance the management capacity of customs authorities in line with the standards of modern customs, as well as to cut costs and facilitate trade. VNACCS/VCIS also purports to ensure Vietnam’s compliance with the ASEAN “single window” initiative.

VNACCS/VCIS is intended to improve on the current e-Customs system. For example, the VNACCS/VCIS provides new procedures for the management of pre-clearance, clearance and post-clearance processes, adds new customs procedures such as registration of the duty exemption list, introduces a combined procedure for both commercial and non-commercial goods, simplifies procedures for low unit value goods and offers new management procedures for temporarily exported/imported goods, etc.

After the testing phase (which took place from November 2013 until the end of February 2014), users have been raising concerns regarding the VNACCS/VCIS system’s complexity. VNACCS/VCIS provides a declaration process with 109 export and 133 import data fields, compared to the current 27 export and 38 import declaration fields. Many of them are not compatible with the actual systems of companies, and appear to require from declarers an extensive knowledge of customs-related matters.

Comment – from an outsider’s perspective, besides systems testing, it would seem to appear that insufficient time has been allocated for alignment of industry systems to Vietnam Customs’ new data requirements. This, and the fact that no ‘grace period’ (waiver of sanctions or penalties) will be considered by the customs administration does not bode well for a smooth transition.

VNACCS/VCIS employs the quantity reporting mechanism in the official Units of Measures (“UOMs”), often used in international trade statistics, yet creates significant obstacles to companies that do not have compatible manufacturing, inventory planning and control systems. Vietnam Customs has stated that it will work on improving this issue.

VNACCS/VCIS also applies the declaration of customs values at the unit level. Since unit costs and unit prices used in financial systems of companies may not always be identical to declared values, companies may fail to comply with such requirement. Sanctions may be applied from day 1 of the new systems activation.

Technical difficulties are also a matter of great concerns to business community, e.g. with asset tracking. Currently under VNACCS/VCIS, reporting is limited to 7 digits, incompatible with many companies having asset tracking systems with identification numbers of up to 20 digits. To address concerns raised by the business community about the new system, Japanese experts have agreed to support Vietnam Customs 1 year after the official implementation date of the system.

There are concerns for potential risks of non-compliance for wrong declaration due to lack of an adequate understanding of VNACCS/VCIS. Vietnam Customs has rejected a proposal for “grace period” before applying sanctions upon violations, but encourages companies to actively participate in training programs organized by customs authorities to better avoid potential non-compliance risks.

Another concern is the chance of system failure which may lead to severe interruptions and delays in clearance procedures. Vietnam Customs has ensured business community that they have a back-up contingency mechanism in place to support customs procedures in the event that VNACCS/VCIS fails to operate properly. In the meantime, a new circular detailing the implementation of VNACCS/VCIS is being drafted and should come into effect by the launch date. Various business associations are still trying to find ways to mitigate the likely disruption from the sudden transition to the new system. Source: Baker & McKenzie (Vietnam)