…as judgment debt looms
As details from the Ghc4.6billion contract awarded to Sibton Switch by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) to build the mobile money interoperability platform continue to emerge, the fine points are assembling into a picture suggestive that those who abrogated the contract have caused financial loss to the state.
Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, who sparked controversy with his claim that he and his government have achieved great value for money by re-awarding the contract at $4 million appears to have rather wasted Ghc19.5million of state money doing so.Along with him is the current leadership of the BoG headed by Dr. Ernest Yedu Addison, who appears to have badly contradicted commonsense in the course of vandalizing Sibton Switch’s contract.
Sibton is reportedly in London seeking international arbitration that could likely end in favorable judgment against Ghana as the country’s laws were vandalized in the abrogation of its contract.
But even before any multi-billion cedi judgment debt is slapped on Ghana, the perpetrators of the reckless contract abrogation opted to use tax payer money to fund the contract when there were at least two alternative sources of private money to fall on.
When Sibton responded to the selective tender that invited bids from private companies to build, operate and own the project that was to synchronize the entirety of Ghana’s financial ecosystem, it had done so along with two other companies.
Vals Intel Limited had proposed to fund the project at GHc 14 million while Mericom Solutions Limited, had offered to build it at GHc 5.4 million.
Though the offers from the two companies had been comparatively lower to that of Sibton, the offers reflected the scope of works that they could deliver on the project, which came short of what the BoG wanted.
The BoG was looking for an integrated system that would not only cover mobile money operations, but would also synchronize the entire retail payment system, including the operations of local banks, to the international payment system.
Even though the project was to be totally financed by the company to be contracted, the BoG made it clear that it wanted to be able to monitor operations on the platform and that the successful company would provide the funds for the training of the BoG staff.
Vals Intel and Mericom Solutions apparently, only had the money to undertake the local aspects of the project and so Sibton, which offered the most comprehensive proposal, according to Dr. Francis Asiamah, former Second Deputy Governor at the BoG, was chosen.
At an estimated cost of $1billion, the platform was to be built over a period of 15 years. However, the NPP government which has claimed that Sibton’s estimate was too high abrogated the contract.
Vice President Bawumia, who on the 10th May, 2018 launched another version of the platform built by the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS) boasted that after the abrogation of Sibton’s contract, it was turned over to GHIPSS and GHIPSS has built it for the Ghc19.5million.
Dr. Bawumia’s claim of saving the country money has led to questions as to how he could make that claim after spending Ghc19.5million when the same project was originally to be carried out without government spending a dime.
Apart from this, it has been pointed out that even after the contract had been taken from Sibton, the NPP government had clear options in Vals Intel Limited and Mericom Solutions, which had proposed to build the same platform at Ghc14million and Ghc5.4million respectively during official tender.
If either Vals Intel or Mericom Solutions had been settled on by the NPP government after the contract of Sibton Switch had been abrogated, they would have built the allegedly lower grade platform that GHIPSS has built at a cheaper cost. The cost would also have been to the companies themselves and not government.
Interestingly, the Ghc14million that Vals offered to push into the project and the Ghc5.4million that Mericom offered to build the project come up to Ghc19.5 million when added together. GHIPSS reportedly spent Ghc19.5million on the project.
Archie Hesse, Chief Executive Officer of GHIPSS has said that the Ghc19.5million ($4.5million) that was spent on the project was borrowed from the BoG. This revelation has since confirmed an earlier position by Dr. Johnson Asiamah that GHIPSS does not have such money to put into the project.
At a news conference that Dr. Asiamah had addressed to clear his name of insinuated corruption over the issue, he said, as Deputy Governor at the BoG he had been in charge of the project and was surprised that GHIPSS is now implementing it. This is because, according to him, when he was at the BoG, GHIPSS, as a subsidiary of the BoG was so constantly insolvent and so unproductive that the BoG at the time had wanted to sell out part of it.
Per the GHIPSS CEO, Archie Hesse’s revelation therefore, the NPP government, basically took the contract from Sibton Switch, which was prepared to spend Ghc4.6billion to build the platform and gave it to an insolvent GHIPSS which is so unproductive that it had to borrow from the BoG to build a substandard version of the same system.
Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, is quoted as saying that what GHIPSS has built so far at Ghc19.5million is just the first phase of the project. Nobody knows how many other phases are left to be completed.
Even so, already, the Minority has pointed out that the system is so substandard that GHIPSS has been constrained to enter into an agreement with telcos such as Vodafone to help make it operable.
Former Deputy Minister of Finance under President John Mahama, Casiel Ato Hayford, has revealed that Vodafone is charging Ghanaian subscribers an additional 0.30% for usage of the platform built by GHIPSS.
“The system is not working, so you know what they’ve done? they’ve actually asked the likes of Vodafone to give them a platform to vote on it, and Vodafone is charging extra 0.35% on all mobile money transactions at a fee so that is a cost to Ghanaians,” Mr. Ato Forson said.
Meanwhile, as the cost from the alleged shoddiness of the project starts to bite down on Ghanaians, Sibton is said to be seeking international arbitration. The company is said to be in London seeking justice.
If it eventually gets judgment against the Government of Ghana, the country would likely suffer a huge judgment debt worth billions of cedis. And Sibton’s prospects are bright because it won the contract on merit after duly going through tender.
What’s more, this same contract has already been investigated by the Akufo-Addo government. In early 2017, the Economic and Organized Crimes Officer (EOCO) investigated the contract but concluded that there had been no wrongdoing whatsoever.