A key component of the BEEP accountability and advocacy project is the establishment of a public-private dialogue platform where duty bearers from public institutions are engaged by the private sector based on evidence from research and user experiences. The platform was set up to afford both sides the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions around reforms currently ongoing in the respective agencies under the BEEP project. Present at the meeting was the Head reforms at the commercial courts, Justice Gertrude Torkornoo, the Registrar General, Mrs. Jemima Oware and Mr. K.S. Mensah from the office of the Commissioner General, Ghana Revenue Authority forming the public sector team and as well as representative from various private sector institutions led by Nana Osei-Bonsu, CEO of PEF and a team from DFID to enrich discussions and promote the spirit of public-private partnership. The dialogue centre on the four key focus areas i.e. commercial court reforms, business registration, paperless port system and payment of taxes.
The discussions started with presentations from researchers at IEA and ISSER on their respective research areas and their findings. After their presentations the duty bearers were given the opportunity to respond to the findings and give assurances on the state of reforms and how issues are being addressed. The private sector participants were also given the opportunity to make inputs in the discussion on the findings and responses received.
Major highlights during the presentation was the not fully functional and cumbersome online business registration portal, the lack of an administrator to manage cases at the commercial courts, the slow implementation of the paperless port system and the replacement of the TRIPS with ITAPS for filing of taxes. In their response Mrs. Jemima Oware indicated that the RGD has taken note of the challenges faced by users of the system and putting in place measures to redesign the online business registration portal to make it user friendly, enable e-signature and online payment features after which they will embark on a massive public sensitization and education on the system to increase traffic on the system thereby reducing paper transactions in the offices of the RGD. She also mentioned that the coming into force of the new companies’ law will make the office of the registrar of companies autonomous and financially independent which also has been one of the main challenges of the Department. Justice Torkornoo on her part called for increased demand from the private sector in birthing the needed changes at the courts and also supporting the judiciary financial to embark on these reforms which will improve the business environment in so many ways and make Ghana an attractive destination for investments. GRA indicated that the rollout of the ITAPS is in its early stages and that a full rollout will commence beginning June, 2019 but in the mean time they have put in place measures to make the system robust and user friendly. The GRA-Customs on their part indicated that the paperless port system is fully operational due to expansion works at the Tema port which will take into consideration all the reforms ongoing and make the Tema port a truly paperless port except that currently there downtimes from the processing documentation from the compliance unit at the head office in Accra which causes some delays and also national security operatives who conduct random checks on cargo leaving the port for security reasons.
The first two meetings on May 28 and June 21, 2019 concluded with assurances from duty bearers to commit to the reform process and also further engage the private sector to achieve an enabling business environment. The last in the series of dialogue meeting will be held periodically during the project implementation to track progress of reforms.