…Even though Google is an offshore company
Attempts by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government to do damage control over the scandalous $2.5million that was paid to a regime crony to ostensibly build a digital address system for the Ghana Post company has tilted open a fresh angle to the scandal.
The NPP government, on Friday justified the payment of the whopping Ghc9.99 million to Ghanaian tech company, Vokacom, to build the digital address system by saying that part of the money was paid to American tech giant, Google.
Managing Director of Ghana Post, James Kwofie, last Friday held a press conference to announce that as part of the breakdown of the $2.5million spent on the app, money had been paid to Google to acquire its license.
“In terms of the cost, what is being paid for is the back-end solution, data analytics, hardware i.e. the firewalls and servers, Google license, marketing and publicity as well as technical support, and GHc1.7 million VAT which goes back to the government,” Mr. Kwofie had said.
The man who also confirmed that the Ghana Post GPS App indeed runs on Google Map, also announced that by embedding the App into the Google Map app, the NPP government has committed to pay $400,000 every year in copyright costs.
“Contrary to popular belief, Google charges when you use their systems for local purposes or commercial activities. The Google license fee at the moment is $400,000 per year – that is the enterprise package.”
Interestingly, the government’s deal with Google did not receive approval from Ghana’s Parliament even though Google is an offshore company registered in America.
Since the government’s announcement of the rollout of the Ghana Post GPS, many people, including MPs, have asked if the deal to hire Vokacom to build the App had gone through proper tender, indicating that the deal had not gone before Parliament.
Parliamentary sources have also confirmed to The Republic that indeed the government’s decision to enter into a deal with Google which will force the country to cough up a whopping $400,000 (Ghc1.75million) every year to the tech company did not go before Parliament.
Under the laws of Ghana every international contract is supposed to first receive Parliamentary approval. Indeed, it was on the basis of this law that the Supreme Court nullified the contracts of Isofotone and Waterville Holdings BVI, among others, with government, even though those offshore companies had performed on those contracts.
Google, an American multinational technology company that specializes in Internet-related services and products, was incorporated as a privately held company in California on September 4, 1998. An initial public offering (IPO) took place on August 19, 2004, and Google moved to its new headquarters in Mountain View, California, nicknamed the Googleplex.
Google is therefore an offshore company, both registered and, with main base in the US. The NPP government’s contract with it to provide tech services to Ghana therefore is illegal without Parliamentary approval.
Meanwhile, revelations by the Ghana Post Managing director about spending on the Ghana Post GPS based on Google Map, which is available for free on android phones, has blown many away.
According to Mr. James Kwofie, the NPP government has spent a whopping Ghc3.5million on publicizing/advertising the new Ghana Post GPS. Interestingly, beyond the launch by President Akufo-Addo a few weeks ago in Accra, it is only one advert in which the Ghana Post GPS is referred to as “Jack-Where-Are-You” that is running on television.
The whole deal to build the App has also been shrouded in shadiness, with the CEO of Vokacom, the company that was contracted to build the App, Nana Osei Afrifa, said to be a friend of President Akufo-Addo who had contributed $500,000 to the President’s campaign in the build up to the 2016 election.
With no clear indications that Vokacom had gone through competitive tender to land the contract, many observers have come to believe that the deal given to Vokacom was a sweetheart one.
This view is nourished by the fact that local Waste Management Company, Zoom Lion, is said to have built a similar App and agreed to allow government freely avail itself of it upon completion.
Former Information Minister, Mahama Ayariga, has said that earlier this year, Zoom Lion had invited the Communication committee of Parliament to its offices to introduce its version of the App, which it was prepared to make available to government for free. This was several months before President Akufo-Addo would announce to the country that Vokacom had been contracted to build a similar system for $2.5 million (Ghc9.99million).
The revelation that the Ghana Post GPS App is indeed based on Google Map has since vindicated the position of many technology experts that the $2.5million spent on it is not justifiable.
Civil Society organization leaders, including Franklin Cudjoe of IMANI Ghana, have also said the App is amateurish and insecure.
Meanwhile, in an outpouring of scorn on government over the Ghana Post GPS App, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia has received the worst eggs on the face.
At the launch of the App, Dr. Bawumia had boasted that the App was so advanced that it was going to catapult Ghana way ahead of the rest of the world, including the United States and the UK in the area of technological mapping.
As it has turned out however, the Ghana Post GPS is not only embedded on Google Map, which both America and the UK already have, but actually very substandard. The App is said to be so defective it generates several codes per a single location leading to confusion.
It is also said to be so insecure that anything at all that is keyed into it elicits data.
President Akufo-Addo, who about two weeks ago, launched the National Digital Property Addressing System, also known as the Ghana Post GPS in Accra, said the app was a result of very hard work by Vice President Bawumia.
The President had also boasted the app, which is aimed at providing effective means of addressing every piece of the country, was a fulfilment of his campaign promise.