Ex-SSNIT Boss, 4 Others Face 29 Charges
Ernest Thompson, a former Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) has been hauled before an Accra High Court for willfully causing financial loss to the state.
The accused is before the court in relation to the over $34 million Operating Business Suite (OBS) contract entered into and executed during his tenure as head of SSNIT.
Mr. Thompson is in the dock with four others-John Hagan Mensah, a former IT Infrastructure Manager at SSNIT; Juliet Hassana Kramer, CEO of Perfect Business Systems, Caleb Kwaku Afaglo, former head of Management Information System (MIS) at SSNIT and Peter Hayibor, General Counsel for SSNIT.
Mr. Thompson and the other suspects are expected to answer a total of 29 counts ranging from willfully causing financial loss to the state, conspiracy to cause financial loss to the state, defrauding by false pretense and contravention of public Procurement Authority Act.
The others are possession forged documents and ultering of forged documents.
The accused persons according to the Attorney General’s fact sheet signed by Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, the Director of Public Prosecution allegedly variously contributed to the state losing the said amount over the SSNIT OBS software.
Appearing in court yesterday the five who were represented by their respective lawyers denied all the charges.
Lawyers of the accused persons urged the court presided over by Justice Henry Anthony Kwoifie to bail them.
The defense lawyers variously argued that their clients were not flight risks and that they had been law abiding citizens all though the period of investigation by the Economic and Organized Crimes Office (EOCO).
Thaddeus Sory, lawyer for Mr. Thompson while stressing that the court grants the accused person self-recognizance bail, indicated that the basic principle of law was that the accused persons like any other person in the street ought to be treated with curtesy.
He said like all accused persons they were innocent until proven guilty irrespective of how the A-G embellishes its case.
The trial judge however, in a ruling granted the accused persons self-recognizance bail.
The facts of the case as narrated by the AG, Gloria Afua Akuffo are that Mr. Thompson, was the Director- General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) between May 2013 and January 2017.
She said in June 2010, SSNIT developed An Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Strategic Plan to reflect current changes in its operational processes and conform with new trends to ICT industry.
The plan, Ms Akuffo noted envisioned the development and implementation of a new software solution known as OBS, to provide a state–of-the- art pension administration system on a Turnkey basis for SSNIT.
The state prosecutor stated that SSNIT advertised for international competitive bidding in the media for the development and implementation of the project.
“Although an entity described as Perfect Business System Limited (PBS) did not participate in the bidding, on 15th November 2012, the contract was awarded jointly to Silver Lake, a Malaysian Information Technology (IT) solutions provider, and PBS purportedly as a consortium at a contract of sum of $34,011,914.21 inclusive of 14% contingency and 17.5% Value Added Tax.”
The court further heard that the objective of the project was to automate all the core processes in the administration of pension and integrate all internal systems as well as external stakeholders of SSNIT.
She explained that the contract which covered the head office as well as area and branch offices totaling 55 sites was to be compared within eighteen months, adding that the project included the supply and installation of hardware and software development, data conversion, data migration and system integration of all the components and maintenance support.
Contrary to the terms of the contract, the A-G argued that Mr. Thompson, Juliet and Caleb caused payments to be made by SSNIT to PBS for items which were already covered by the contract sum thereby ballooning the contract sun of $34,011,914,21 to US$66,783,148.08 through what were termed variously as “Change Orders” and “Variations”.
She said the so-called Variations or Changed Orders were carried out at the instance of the accused persons and authorized by Mr. Thompson even though some of the payments were above his threshold as Director-General and contrary to the Public Procurement Act.
Ms. Akuffo stated that on January 15, 2016, SSNIT entered into a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the so-called consortium (PBS/Silver lake) represented by Juliet in the sum $2,570,976.41 per annum for maintenance and warranty for three years.
She said although the maintenance and warranty agreement was executed in 2016, payment started in September 1, 2014 when no services had been rendered at that time.
“The payments were made contrary to the terms of the OBS Contract and the advice of the Corporate Law Manager against the payments resulting in an unearned two years payment of $5,141,305.66 by SSNIT to the consortium through John” the fact sheet read.
The A-G among other things said Peter had concurred with the advice of the Corporate Law Manager and undertook to take up the matter with Mr. Thompson but failed to do so.
By: Jeffrey De-Graft Johnson