[Opinion] Government sacrifices 35% shares in GC-NET for zero share in UNIPASS whose system’s technical capability remains uncertain

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The contract signed between the Government of Ghana acting through the Ministry of Trade and Industry on the one hand and GHANA LINK NETWORK SERVICES LTD on the other hand, has no indication of Government owning any shares in the UNIPASS Ghana arrangement.

This strange arrangement runs counter to the one that subsisted between GC-NET and Government of Ghana. In fact, by terminating the contract of GC-NET, Government of Ghana is effectively selling its 35% shareholding in GC-NET to UNIPASS Ghana for free. And Given that Government owns no shares in UNIPASS Ghana, the Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS) can therefore not be construed to be the property of Government of Ghana.
The agreement stipulates that the system will be handed over to the Government of Ghana after ten years. That does not imply, at present, it is owned by Government. Therefore the claim that ICUMS is the property of the Ghana Revenue Authority acting for and on behalf of Government cannot be true. What is, however, true is the fact that, GHANA LINK NETWORK SERVICES LTD is and will be the sole proprietor of the UNIPASS platform for the next ten years.

The contract that is signed between the parties does not contain penalties in the event of system failure. This contractual defect places Ghana in such a vulnerable and disadvantaged position. It is common knowledge that this “Ghana version” of UNIPASS has never been tried anywhere in the world. It was therefore not surprising that the system failed during the test runs that were conducted at the major entry points. This resulted in the Government losing sixty-six million Ghana Cedis (GHS 66 Million) as revenue.

In light of this, the Government stands to lose so much more when the system becomes fully operational and failures occur since no clause will hold them accountable for the failures.
Another provision of the contract that bothers many industry players and experts alike and for which reason they are requesting its review, is the cost of Early Unilateral Termination. The Termination Compensation according to the contract is said to be USD 90 million vis-a`-vis the cost of the system which is estimated at USD 40 million. How can Government be committed to pay USD 90 million as compensation for terminating the contract in the first year for a system allegedly costing USD 40million? This is a question begging for answers. Conversely, the contract is silent on what pertains in the case of termination due to poor performance or failure to meet the objects for which the system was procured.
Our sources also indicate that, Government or its authorized representatives are to prove that the system delivered and installed by GHANA LINK NETWORK SERVICES LTD conforms to the specified standards in writing within seven days and to indicate if there is any system failure.

This, our sources tell us, was never done when the system was deployed but failed. Our information is that, the recall of the GC-NET /WEST BLUE system was subsequent to the Test and Trial failures.
Despite these failings, no attempt has been made to review the Notification of Termination, as it is clear the UNIPASS system cannot meet the needs as was done by the GC-NET system.
The UNIPASS system has no Transaction Price Database to check Under and Over Invoicing which are key instruments for checking revenue loss. Information reaching us indicates that, the UNIPASS system is going to rely on the pre-existing WESTBLUE Price Data and Benchmark Values for valuation. The UNIPASS system has no classification module to check Item Description to match it with the appropriate HSCODE. These are some of the major flaws of the ICUMS. It would seem as if the UNIPASS system is projected much more than its actual capabilities.

Many industry players and trade experts are therefore asking the following questions:
Is it the case that, the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) failed to carry out proper due diligence on the contract as it contains many loopholes, working only to the advantage of GHANA LINK NETWORK SERVICES LTD?
Who are the people politically pushing the agenda to promote UNIPASS to the detriment of Government? And more importantly, are there any personal interests of these political individuals at play in this whole UNIPASS saga?
Answers to these questions will be sought in the coming days.

Submit your stories or articles to newsroom@abcnewsgh.com or Whatsapp them to +233 553620623

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