Ghana Link Network Services Ltd (GLNS) is Ghanaian owned company incorporated in 2001 and initially went into the business of Destination Inspection in 2003. From that point GLNS continued to expand on its product lines around cross border trade and continue to evolve.
In the most recent time, GLNS in partnership with the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority spearheaded the implementation of the Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS) under the framework of the UNIPASS solution, an end-to-end trade facilitation, cargo inventory management, security protection and Revenue enhancement solution.
ICUMS was born out of a strategic partnership between GLNS and CUPIA to provide an end-to-end clearance and trade facilitation solutions to Ghana Government. In order for a country to facilitate trade, maximize and ultimately optimize revenue collection as well as ensure safety and security at the borders, it needs a comprehensive and modern trade facilitation solution to manage these functions effectively and efficiently.
On a global scale, the Korea Customs Management System (UNIPASS) provides a holistic solution that ensures a paperless working environment, revenue assurance and safety and security. It is based on high achievements of the UNIPASS that ICUMS was born out of the system. The technology has been built to suit the need of Ghana and hence change in name from UNI-PASS to the Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS).
The Korea UNI-PASS is internationally recognized for protection of intellectual property (IPR) and this is critical for Ghana, especially as the government through the Ministry of Trade leads a new age of industrialization by working hard to set up factories in all the districts in Ghana, known as the One District One Factory 1D1F.
The UNI-PASS is a modern and world-class technology, acknowledged by international bodies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Customs Organization (WCO), the World Bank, and World Economic Forum (WEF), which is used to facilitate trade, ensure supply chain security and increase revenue. In the same regard, ICUMS also offers importers and exporters an integrated system of filing all documents and allow businesses to provide information regarding consignment simultaneously to each agency concerned for swift response in trade facilitation.
Through the clearance management system in the ICUMS, all customs businesses are currently conducted in a paperless environment with real time cargo tracking through the cargo management system (CMS) and is able to collect bills of lading from shipping lines and agents as well as airway bills from the airlines. Consignments can be tracked by authorized person with various tracking numbers and options. It is important to point out that ICUMS provides all stakeholders the ability to access relevant information as well as able to check the status of the cargo at each stage of the cargo clearance chain.
By way of information, the ICUMS was first deployed from the start of March 2020 at selected customs land frontiers. The next phase of deployment was at Takoradi Port from April 1, 2020. Kotoka International Airport (KIA) also went live from April at the close of the month of April, 2020.
The subsequent phase of deployment before going live nationwide was done in May 2020, for downstream petroleum operations. The final phase of the deployment at Tema Port and the rest of the country on June 1, 2020. The deployment of the ICUMS has covered all customs regimes and processes for sea, air, land import, export and transit-related transactions.
In terms of capacity building, we have trained over 2,000 internal stakeholders, made up of customs officers, internal auditors and post-clearance audit staff, as well as some 5,500 external stakeholders including Freight Forwarders.
The aim of the ICUMS is to continue to build strong partnership with the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) as well as other stakeholder to organize cross –border trade information and appropriately make it available to all users for the purpose of revenue collection enhancement, protection of National Security, as well as facilitation of genuine trade.
The ICUMS solution is made up of 5 main components: Customs Business, Integrated Risk Management, Single Window, IT Management, and Customs Administration. Each component has various sub-systems that when put all together provides a fully functional e- Customs system which is compatible to Customs business environment worldwide that enable the sharing of information and removal of the need for actors to submit the same information to several entities.
Other Unique Features
The ICUMS platform has a set of features that accentuate its acceptance and implementation over other systems. First, ICUMS has a stand-by human resource management module that facilitates identification of officers who worked on a given cargo and the time during which the work was carried out and completed. Second, tracing missing cargoes or goods under the novel ICUMS platform is very simple. It’s also built to effectively identify the importation of unsafe and fake goods leading to effective preventive measures.
Also because of the revenue-focused nature of ICUMS, it has a valuation data warehouse, which is a pre-requisite for proper valuation and revenue collection.
Finally, ICUMS has an exclusive tracking device for all cargoes which helps to identify each cargo using a unique reference number.
According the GRA revenue mobilization trend, before the ICUMS, monthly average Customs Revenue collection was around GH¢800 - GH¢900 million. However, the Commissioner- General of GRA in an interview with the Eye on Port looking at the one year of the CUMS going live country-wide said indeed the system has helped them to collect more revenue than was realized before then. This assertion he says is corroborated by the mobilization of between GH¢1.3 billion to GH¢1.4 billion per month as revenue since the implementation of the new system.
At the time of implementation, proponents of the ICUMS platform argue, if in the midst of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, the GRA was able to rake-in that amount of revenue, then the country stands to benefit a great deal from its full implementation in post-COVID period.
Benefits of the ICUMS
Notwithstanding, the economic benefits of the port clearance system in the immediate-, medium- and the long-term are expected not only to be phenomenal but help the government to raise the needed revenues to help in its developmental agenda. This also means the much talked about leakages within the port revenue value chain would largely see drastic reduction if not closure.
This is because the ICUMS has an end-to-end system which does not allow operators to tamper with figures on it. The digital architecture of the ICUMS platform which was deployed by GLNS allows it to fit into the government’s digitization agenda and paperless system proposals.
ICUMS provides for swift customs clearance, and to facilitate trade at the country’s ports and borders by cutting cost, reduce the time for goods clearance for all stakeholders. Before ICUMS, valuation and classification as well as risk management and payment were all carried out by different entities which created room for revenue leakages and undue delays in the cargo clearance process at the ports. Under the new the ICUMS platform, the foregoing processes are completed through a single window.
To quote Dr. Ebenezer Ashley, Chartered Economist/Financial Consultant, “Indeed, the novel system is intended to present comprehensive and easy-to-use digital customs system to the Ghanaian market, without compromising international standards. It is perceived by many analysts as the long-awaited “Messiah” of Ghana’s leaking revenue basket.”
ICUMS is the only technology in the area of trade facilitation, security/safety and revenue mobilization developed by a customs agency aimed at solving customs and trade-related issues. Hence, it is a tailor-made technology. Also, it is important to note that, there is nowhere in the world that a government will allow for such a system to be deployed without piloting it. Indeed, we acknowledge that implementing a national single window system will not happen without initial challenges.
However, what is important is that while these challenges emerge, the rate at which one resolves them is what is important, and Ghana Link and its partners have been very swift to resolve all the challenges that have been raised with the system.
To conclude, ICUMS provides the required tools that makes cross border trading activities faster, simpler, more effective and efficient. ICUMS seeks to offer an ideal trade management solution that provide a distinct positive impact on the day-to-day operations of ports by proving the users with complete and timely information, important notifications as well as accurate analysis of data.
Timely exchange of accurate and proper information with suppliers, customers and other stakeholders ensures benefits for all stakeholders and the country as a whole. In the simplest form, ICUMS solution organizes cross border trade information and make the information promptly and easily available to all authorized users and stakeholders.
Born of the UNIPASS technology, it is used by many countries around the world and is fully operational in countries like Ecuador, Nepal, Mongolia, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Dominican Republic and Uzbekistan.
In Africa, Tanzania and Cameroun have adopted the UNI-PASS. It is operational in Tanzania, but yet to be fully deployed in Cameroun. In Tanzania, the introduction of UNI-PASS (called TANCIS) in 2012 led to revenue increase of $390 million in 2013, $495 million in 2014, and $651 million in 2015.