ANAS' STORY: The Dark Secrets Of Tema Harbour
A veritable commercial beehive; the economic nerve centre of Ghana, sits on the shores of the Atlantic and overlooks the bubbling big blue sea. The sea breeze seems to have been directed purposely to produce a calming effect on the crammed and torrid atmosphere and on the bristling pace of business. The national flag, the Customs flag, and that of the Ports and Harbours go fluttering and flying at full mast. Gallant men and women resplendent in their uniform, complete with their berets embossed with the sacred Coat of Arms, walk around in high morale. Businessmen in their tuxedoes and clearing agents crisscross, moving from office to office with an air of tenacious dedication. Do not be deceived, some of these men in Ghana’s iconic harbour city are busily stealing from the most fertile vineyards of the motherland. The nation’s trusted farmhands at the Harbour have appropriated the farmland and its produce and denied their landlord (Ghana) the benefits due him. The Tema Harbour has been turned into a goldmine for some greedy security officials who are threatening to strip the mine facility to satisfy their selfish ends. Many officers from CEPS, the Ghana Police Service, National Security and the Ghana Ports and Habours Authority would do all it takes in the scramble to possess a piece of the prize. It is a dark and murky world at the Tema Harbour, as these security officials collaborate with some clearing agents to steal money belonging to the state through tax evasion, bribery and personal greed, thereby defeating the nation’s revenue mobilization efforts. Invariably, potential investors, importers and ordinary Ghanaians are made to bear the brunt of the selfishness and greed exhibited by these officers and agents because prices are passed over. These discoveries follow over three months of investigation by The New Crusading GUIDE into the operations of the Tema Harbour. Posing as a clearing agent under the name “Oblitey Sowah”, alias “Koose” from “Tiger Shipping agency”, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, together with a team of agents, obtained secret video footage on the daily cases of bribery and corruption that greet any importer or businessperson who calls at the port. Most importers are made to face the harsh realities of delays, payment of illegal fees, destruction and stealing of their goods as well as the sheer greed displayed by some security officers. The investigations also brought to light multiple cases of bribery, corruption, stealing, several cases of collusion between security officials and clearing agents as well as loss of goods belonging to importers as a result of inadequate security measures at the facility. The investigation uncovered some of the worst forms of bribery and corruption, lack of professionalism and glaring examples of stealing by these security officials at the port. Amidst all these corrupt activities, many agents have devised ways of adding the cost of bribe charges to the fees they usually charge importers. As a result, people who import goods into the country through the harbour go through unspeakable frustrations, not least the payment of huge sums of illegal charges which end up in the pockets of private individuals. In the process, it takes months to clear goods from the harbour. Sometimes, the nightmares of these importers are climaxed by the loss of their goods through theft or damages through mishandling. Over the years, there have been many reports of how unattractive the Harbour has become, with many importers channeling their frustrations through diverse ways. It is striking how very little has changed in the system. The New Crusading GUIDE also got access into the Customs Electronic system – a repository of all transactions that go on at the port – where we found very worrying cases of tax exemptions and unrecovered debts owed to the state worth billions of cedis. It brought to the fore many cases of tax exemption offered in the name of the Office of the President over the years. Many other exemptions were given out to individuals and companies on condition of “Awaiting Parliamentary Approval”. Here, we discovered that monies lost in bribery, corruption and some tax exemptions could help usher Ghana into an era of freedom from foreign donors. DODGY “AWAITING PARLIAMENTARY APPROVAL”, THAT NEVER WENT TO PARLIAMENT Many Businessmen and friends of politicians have over the years used their association to parliamentarians to evade taxes whenever they clear goods from the Tema Harbour. These individuals sometimes import goods in their names for family members and their companies. Undoubtedly, the use of the name of parliament has resulted in the state losing millions Cedis, as some government officials over the years deliberately abuse the system to clear goods for their business cronies. Our checks also revealed that even when the code is used to clear genuine goods, the much-awaited parliamentary approval never comes to validate it. It was horrifying to realize that some of these people never went to parliament for approval. Between March 2007 and December 2009, over GH¢ 900 million worth of tax exemptions was granted to some individuals and institutions in the name of “Parliament”. These tax exemptions were given out for goods ranging from medical equipment, household items, educational items and vehicles; with beneficiaries across public and private entities. Further figures obtained between January and November 2010 indicate that approximately GH¢ 17.9 million was lost by the state as a result of these special permits in the name of Parliament. Parliament is constitutionally mandated to handle all tax issues that border on finances. Part of Article 174(1) of the constitution under chapter 13, sub-headed “finance” states that “no taxation shall be imposed otherwise than by under the authority of an act of parliament”. In this light, no taxes can be levied on anybody unless it is done under an act of parliament. Although exemptions are given for special reasons based on parliamentary approval, The New Crusading GUIDE found out that the system was being abused by some individuals and organizations who always use the name of parliament to evade taxes. For the past six years, Parliament does not have any record of some of these exemptions. In an interview with The New Crusading GUIDE, Chairman of the Finance Committee in parliament, Hon James Avedzi said although parliament has conferred the power of granting exemptions on the Ministry of Finance, it does not have an idea which individuals or organizations have been granted exemptions over these years. More soon.
Source: Anas Aremeyaw Anas/ New Crusading Guide/Ghana