The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has pledged to work with efficiency and empathy in the discharge of their duty to mobilise revenue for the nation.

Acting Commissioner-General of the GRA, Ms. Julie Essiam, made this comment during a meeting to secure the release of US$45million worth of critical medical supplies purchased with Ghana’s Global Fund allocations.

Ms. Essiam met with the leadership of the Country Coordinating Mechanism of the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, TB & Malaria (CCM-Ghana) in a bid to resolve the impasse over the US$45million worth of pharmaceutical products locked up at the port.

Earlier this year, news emerged that pharmaceutical products procured through the Global Fund were stuck at port due to unpaid import duties. The impasse threatened to exacerbate existing stock shortages of essential supplies like Antiretrovirals (ARVs) and Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits (RDTs), crucial in the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH), last month, raised serious concerns about the potential consequences of the delay. “The deadlock,” stated Dr. Samuel Kow Donkoh, President of the PSGH, “imperils the health and well-being of numerous Ghanaians grappling with HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.”

Recognising the urgency of the situation, Ms. Essiam convened a meeting with the CCM-Ghana to find a swift resolution.

“It is unfortunate that while an exemption had been granted for the products, outstanding third-party clearance fees resulted in demurrage and other penalties,” Ms. Essiam explained. “However,” she continued, “the GRA fully appreciates the importance of prioritising the health sector, where lives are at stake and is, therefore, stepping in to ensure that a solution is found speedily.”

The meeting yielded positive results as Ms. Essiam pledged the GRA’s commitment to working collaboratively with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health to ensure a smooth and efficient release process. “We will ensure appropriate processes are followed to secure the release of the goods expeditiously,” she affirmed.

Ms. Essiam emphasised the GRA’s commitment to striking a balance between its role in revenue collection and supporting the sustainability of businesses and public health initiatives. “It is my priority to engage consistently with stakeholders from all sectors,” she stated. “The GRA will serve the needs of our clients not only with integrity and fairness, but also with empathy.”

It is expected that following Commissioner-General Essiam’s intervention, the first batch of pharmaceutical products will leave the ports this week to advance the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

While the immediate crisis appears to be abating, stakeholders acknowledge the need for long-term solutions. The PSGH, for example, has called for domestic dialogues on sustainable financing mechanisms to safeguard essential health programmes.

Meanwhile, Acting Chair of CCM-Ghana, Ernest Amoabeng Ortsin, lauded Ms. Essiam for her intervention to help secure the release of the goods expeditiously. He expressed gratitude for her solution-oriented approach and said his outfit looks forward to future collaboration with the GRA.

The meeting was attended by Ms. Julie Essiam, Commissioner-General, GRA; Deputy Commissioner Emmanuel Ohene, Deputy Commissioner, Customs Operations; Kofi Baidoo, Principal Economics Officer at the Ministry of Finance; Ernest Amoabeng Ortsin, Acting Chair CCM-Ghana; Samuel Hackman, Executive Secretary, CCM-Ghana; and Sidney Kweku Danso, Oversight Officer Covid-19 Response Mechanism.

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