The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) has waged war against clearing agents and unscrupulous individuals who clone and inflate GPHA invoices to defraud importers.
The authority has warned such individuals to desist from such acts or be ready to face harsh punishment.
The warning follows the arrest of four clearing agents who are alleged to inflate GPHA invoices in order to defraud some importers.
In a statement issued by the authority, the Finance Manager of Tema Port, Mr Tebon Zumah, said individuals who would be caught in such acts would pay a penalty, three times more than the defrauded amount.
“Once you engage in such fraudulent activity, you are supposed to pay three times the defrauded amount. In this particular case, the total is GH¢20,000. So, we will multiply that by three and require them to pay,” he stated.
Agents in custody
The GPHA recently arrested four alleged fraudulent clearing agents who inflated GPHA invoices in order to extort monies from importers.
The alleged culprits were contracted agents tasked by the Ghana Catholic Secretariat which is a self-declarant organisation to clear goods on its behalf.
It emerged that the four culprits, without the knowledge of their employers, declared forged invoices to their customers and split the profits at the expense of the port authorities and the Ghana Catholic Secretariat.
The fraudulent activities of these four were reported to have gone on for over a year with the defrauded amount totalling GH¢20,000.
Impact on GPHA
Mr Zumah said the actions of the four arrested clearing agents had created an impression that the cost of doing business in the country’s ports was expensive.
“The most important and critical issue is the effect that these things have on the port. It makes the port look very expensive which is not right,” he noted.
He said the GPHA was working assiduously on technical measures to create the atmosphere where customers of the ports would have a very transparent access to clearance details to save them such undue cost and also protect the reputation of the port authorities.
“We are looking at those alternatives to make sure that the consignees get involved, get access to the invoice so that if a clearing agent comes to tell you this is what I have printed from GPHA at least you can also verify,” he stated.
The Manager of Tema Port Security, Mr Joseph Punamane, for his part said the alleged fraudulent clearing agents would also be banned from working in the port to serve as a deterrent to others.
“We are going to do is to hand them over to the police and also fine them as per the rules here,” he said.