The GCNet System
In line with our Mission GCNet has implemented a seamless electronic system using cutting edge technology that links all trade operators, revenue agencies, and regulatory bodies through a "Single Window” system. The current set up contrasts sharply with the pre-GCNet situation when trade operators had to shuttle from one agency to the other whilst processing their trade and Customs transactions as illustrated below:
In pursuance of its mission, GCNet has developed, and operates, an electronic messaging platform (ie. a TradeNet system), with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), XML, AINSI, etc. functionalities (ie. a TradeNet) for processing trade and customs declarations, that seeks to link all stakeholders on a unique, common platform, as illustrated below:
GCNet has also developed, as an integral component of the TradeNet, the automated Ghana Customs Management System (GCMS), that enables Customs to electronically process clearances and their related functions. These functions include the electronic transmission and integration of Manifests, validation of Entries submitted by Declarants, payment of duties and taxes, maintenance of Customs codes and regimes, generation of reports, the audit of these functions, as well as all the other Customs operational activities such as warehousing, free zone, or transit operations.
The system also allows relevant statutory bodies (eg. the Free Zone Board, Investment Promotion Centre, or Minerals Commission) to issue exemptions, permits, or approvals through the system, monitor revenue collections (eg. the Revenue Agencies Governing Board or Bank of Ghana), to extract data from the system for statutory reports (eg. the Statistical Service or Ghana Export Promotion Council).
After the formal launch of the GCNet Service in December 2002, by H.E. Alhaji Aliu Mahama, Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, the GCNet system became operational at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) in January 2003, when the system replaced the old ASYCUDA system, which had been used by Customs.
The system was subsequently deployed at Tema in June 2003, and thereafter Takoradi in November 2003. Aflao was also connected to the system in September, 2004 whilst Elubo on the western border with Cote d’Ivoire, and Paga on the northern border with Burkina Faso, were connected in October 2005, and March 2006 respectively, in spite of the infrastructural challenges at these land entry / exit points. Two other entry/exit points along the border with Burkina Faso, are expected to be connected to the system by the end of the first-half of 2007.
A geographical roll-out of the service is highlighted below:
Benefits of System
As envisioned, the deployment of the system has resulted in a significant improvement in the clearance time for consignments through the ports. Eighty-one (81%) per cent of consignments cleared through KIA have been effected in one day, as against a pre-GCNet situation of 2-3 days of clearance times.
At Tema also, consignments are being cleared within 1-2 days, as against an average 2-3 weeks clearance time in the past, consignments are now being cleared within 1-2 days even when complementary services by other agencies are still being done manually. At Takoradi also, nearly seventy (70) per cent of consignments are cleared within one day of a declaration being validated by the system.
Clearances at the land borders of Aflao, Elubo and Paga take, on average, a couple of hours.
Revenue collection has also increased significantly, in spite of a correspondent growth in exemptions in duty and taxes granted, and in the face of a fairly stable import volume. CEPS KIA, for instance, has acknowledged that ”since the implementation of the GCNet/GCMS there has been a marked progressive increase in revenue”. Over the 2002-2003 period, for instance, revenue increased by an average of 38.1%. A further average growth of 37.3% was achieved over the 2003-2004 period, whilst 16.69% growth was recorded in 2005, and a 33 % growth was attained in 2006.
Tema has enjoyed a similar positive revenue collection result with growths of 48.7% in 2003 and 42.5% in 2004, 21% in 2005 and 11% in 2006. As succinctly put by “The Chronicle”, “the introduction of the Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) at the Tema Port has boosted the collection performance of Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS)”.
The “Graphic” has also reported that “GCNet eases goods clearing, and pushes up revenue by 80%”, whilst the “Ghanaian Times” noted that “The World Bank hails GCNet”, as the GCNet was showcased in a World Bank 2004 Report on “Customs Modernization Initiatives” and a 2005 “World Bank Customs Modernization Handbook”.
To be able to achieve these positive results, GCNet has not only introduced the system, but has undertaken substantial human capacity building through training and skills set development. Nearly 3,000 users, including Customs officers, freight forwarders, port, bank and public sector officials have been trained, in the usage of the system, the related application software for the generation of reports.
Having rolled-out almost 95 per cent of key Customs collections, GCNet has sought to optimize the benefits of a seamless clearance system by connecting as many regulatory agencies as possible (eg. the Ghana Investment Promotion Council, Food and Drug Board, Free Zone Board, etc.), whose operations have a bearing on the clearance process to the system, in addition to others like the Bank of Ghana, Ghana Shippers Council, Driver and Licensing Authority, Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI), etc.) that have already been connected to the system. This is being implemented under a MDA Connectivity Programme.
A sample of the operational process (eg. for the electronic issuance of a free zone exemption is illustrated below:
In developing the system, GCNet has worked closely with CEPS to re-engineer CEPS operational processes. Among the tasks undertaken were the preparation of new Customs Procedure Codes (CPCs) that meet standards set by the World Customs Organization (WCO).
In addition, the Ghana Customs Tariff Book has been extensively reviewed and updated to ensure that it meets standards set by the WCO.
Also, to enhance CEPS’ operational efficiency, a number of innovative features have been incorporated into GCMS. These include the issuance of Electronic Delivery Orders by GPHA and the freight stations as well as the shipping lines.
There is also a Valuation Module that enables CEPS Compliance Officers to quickly access a transactional value database that has been generated in the system, as further validation of values submitted by Declarants or proffered by inspection companies. Similarly a Used Vehicle Valuation Module has been incorporated into the system that brings transparency and automaticity to the valuation process has been introduced.
Within the system also, there is a Transit Module, that among its features captures the consignment details, and then breaks it into sub-consignments, captures transit truck and its driver details, makes provision for the issuance of an electronic transit bond (by SIC, the national transit guarantor), the usage of various seals, IP cameras that record images of the cargoes as they travel along the transit corridor as well as electronic satellite tracking devices:
The GCNet system remains versatile, robust, reliable, and has coped well with the large volume of transactions, which have been processed through it, as well as the various viral attacks that have compromised other systems world-wide.