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The Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) is on a nationwide campaign to resolve the often unhealthy tension between importers and Customs officials deployed to conduct Post Clearance Audits.

To bridge the knowledge gap that results in the rift, the Authority held a day’s sensitization in Kumasi for importers and exporters drawn from the Ashanti, Bono, Bono East and Ahafo Regions.

Post Audit Clearance provides an avenue for the Customs division of the Ghana Revenue Authority to revisit entities to ensure that importers are really declaring true values, producing the right trade documentation and paying the right duties and charges to the state;

The exercise which is part of international trade facilitation protocols, ensures that businessmen are not unduly delayed by long cargo inspections at the ports while at the same time, providing a safeguard for ensuring that importers comply with Customs laws, regulations and procedures.

Facilitating the forum, Deputy Ashanti Regional Commander of Customs Evans Teye Agbozo expressed concern, Customs Officials detailed to conduct such audits, often face hostilities from importers as a result of a misunderstanding of these protocols.

“World trade volumes have gone up so much we cannot do 100% inspections at the point of entry and so we facilitate trade at the ports after which post clearance comes in to analyze what has been cleared already. What others will see as friction between us and the importers is their misunderstanding of the procedure,” he pointed out.

Mr. Agbozo explained that the audit which forms part of world Customs Organization (WCO) protocols, can be conducted as early as the commodities exit the port; to as far back as six years after the goods were cleared.

The Second in Command recounted a case where Post Clearance Audits had flagged companies importing rice under the documentation of caustic soda (which have similar weights as rice) apparently to evade the right duties years after clearance .

He indicated that such audits could be done on a large scale or a random industry or product basis after PCA picks signals of fraud, errors, omissions, or irregularities in customs declarations.

Cautioning Importers and Exporters, he stated that the GRA is armed with a wide range of tools to sniff out obstinate importers engaging in incorrect valuation, misclassification of goods, inaccurate determination of origin, or discrepancies in quantities and weights.

Speaking in an interview with reporter Ivan Heathcote – Fumador, the 2IC Customs, Evans Teye Agbozo contended that the audit process is not oppressive as importers are afforded the opportunity to challenge Post Clearance Audit Reports without which either fines or revaluated duties are presented for compliance.

“GRA will write to you and pre-inform you about the documents they require pertaining to your particular consignment. After the audit, we write to you for you to appeal or reject the findings under the law. It’s not dictatorial,” he stressed.

Commenting on behalf of the trading community, the Ashanti Regional Chairman of the Ghana Union of Traders Association Anthony Oppong said some of his members fall fowl to these audits innocently and insisted agents And Customs Officers were complicit.

“Why should a customs official who knows an importer is to pay 20,000, take money from an agent to change the figures to 15,000 just because he will get something into his pocket?… Then the importer gets harassed when he has cleared his goods and left the port,” He questioned.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Shippers Authority Benonita Bismarck charged importers to take advantage of the knowledge gleaned, to take full responsibility of their customs clearing processes to avoid the inconvenience of embarrassment and fines.

“You have your agent doing the work for you but the shippers themselves must take charge of the process. You should understand what you are doing so that you don’t end up saying it was the fault of your agent when you are the principal,”

I am happy we organized this forum because if they understand it, they can verify every information and stay on the right side of the law,” She advised.

Per treaties of the World Customs Organization; Customs Units in member countries are mandated to adopt and maintain post clearance audits in a transparent and risk based manner.

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