The abridged version of the Customs Act 2015 (Act 891) provides for the imposition, collection, and accounting of customs duty and tax and for related matters.
Section 59 (1) states that a person who imports a motor vehicle into the country and does not enter and clear the motor vehicle within sixty days after the final discharge of the ship or aircraft, or in the case of a motor vehicle imported over land, the date on which it crossed the national borders into the country, shall forfeit the motor vehicle to the state.
Section 2 states that the Commissioner-General shall dispose of a motor vehicle which is forfeited to the state or sell the motor vehicle on an “as is” basis.
Section 3 states that “the price at which a forfeited motor vehicle is disposed of, whether by auction sale, allocation, or any other method, shall include the duty and taxes eligible on the motor vehicle.”
Subsection 3 of the Act contains the can of worms many Ghanaians, including political think thanks, have attempted to open but their efforts have not been very successful.
Several reports, no secret to the public, point to the unjustifiable variations in the sales of these fortified vehicles. Simply put, the amount some identifiable group of people pay for some of these auctioned vehicles from Customs is an outright fraud on the importers.
It is for this reason also that The Chronicle received as great news a statement by the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), that it has “commenced investigation into suspected corruption and corruption-related offences in respect of auction sales of vehicles and other goods by the Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority between 1 July 2016 and 15 August 2022.”
We believe that the probe will help clear all doubts that sales are tailored to serve certain quarters, who are closer to political parties when in power.
The statement issued yesterday said the Special Prosecutor on August 19, 2022, directed the Commissioner of the Custom Division to produce some information to the OSP on or before September 30, 2022.
They are: the particulars and clear description of all auctioned items; the quantity of all auctioned items; the date of each auction sale; and the full names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the successful bidders at all the auction sales.
These demands from the OSP are what we think may open the Pandora’s box, unless Ghanaians want to play the ostriches.
We also foresee the issue of lack of complete data coming up. Our suspicion, apart from the possible shielding of political links, stems from allegations by the Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS) in 2020 that the Ghana Community Network Service Limited (GCNET) did not provide historical transactional data to the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, though GCNET debunked the accusation.
In the OSP directive, the office is demanding records from July 1, 2016, to August 15, 2022. Judging from the claims of the institution handling the said database at the moment, we can only hope that Customs is able to provide a complete database to the OSP.
Regardless, The Chronicle would like well-meaning Ghanaians to support the OSP on this controversial course to unravel the painful treatment the system is meting out to victims of vehicle confiscation at the port.
We would also like to propose a change to the Customs Act that would allow original owners of fortified vehicles to have first dibs on the auction, failing which others could bid.
Otherwise, the 60-day grace period should be extended, and after that, the original owners cannot claim rights.
The reason is that those vehicles are not auctioned right after the 60 days have elapsed, so it will not be wrong to allow owners some additional time.
Also, the amount charged on the vehicle at the time of the confiscation should not be less than the cost of the vehicle at the time of the fortification.
We will, however, commend the OSP for making this move and wish him well. But Ghanaians are waiting for the outcome of the probe.