Court grants Ernest Thompson, 4 others bail

Mr Ernest Thompson coming out of the court room.Photo.Ebo Gorman

Mr Ernest Thompson coming out of the court room.Photo.Ebo Gorman

Mr. Ernest Thompson, the immediate past Director General (DG) of Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), and four others were yesterday granted bail by an Accra high court, for willfully causing financial loss to the state regading a contract worth $66 million.

The accused pleaded not guilty to all 29 charges of conspiracy to commit crime, defrauding by false pretences, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, possession of fake documents and uttering forged documents.

Mr. Thompson, the first accused, John Hagan Mensah, an Information Technology and Infrastructure  Project Manager at SSNIT, Juliet Hassana Kramer, the Chief Executive Officer of Perfect Business Systems (OPBS) , are facing 16 counts of conspiracy to commit crime and willfully causing financial loss to the state in contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

Mr. Caleb Kwaku Afaglo, the General Manager of Management Information System (MIS) at SSNIT, Kramer, Thompson and Mensah are facing another count of conspiracy to commit crime.

The first accused, Mensah, Hayibor, Afaglo and Kramer are also facing eleven different charges of defrauding by false pretences, contravention of Public Procurement Act, possession of fake documents and uttering forged documents.

Prosecuting, Miss Gloria Afua Akuffo, Attorney-General (A-G) and Minister of Justice, told the court presided over by Justice Henry Anthony Kofi that in June 2010, SSNIT developed a new software solution known as Operational Business Suit (OBS), to provide a state-of-the-art pension administration system on a turnkey basis for SSNIT.

She said the Trust advertised for international competitive bidding in the media for the development and implementation of the project, and on November 15, 2012, awarded the $34,011,914.21 contract to Silverlake, a Malaysian IT solutions provider, and PBS purportedly as a consortium, even though Silverlake did not participate in the bidding.

The court heard that the contract aimed to automate all the core processes in the administration of pension and integrate all internal systems as well as external stakeholders of SSNIT.

Prosecution said the contract which covered the head office including 55 sites was to be completed within 18 months.

The A-G told the court that contrary to the terms of the contract, Mr. Thompson, Mrs. Kramer and  Afaglo caused payments to be made by SSNIT to PBS for items which were already covered by the contract, thereby ballooning the total of $34,011,914.21 to $66,783,148.08 through what accused termed as “change orders” and “variations”.

The so-called variations or change orders, she said were carried out at the instance of Mr. Thompson,  Mensah, Kramer, and Afaglo, adding that some of the payments were above the threshold of the former SSNIT boss.

On January 15, 2016, Miss Akuffo said SSNIT entered into a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with PBS/Silverlake for $2,570,976.41 per annum for maintenance and warranty for three years.

She said although maintenance and warranty agreement was executed in 2016, payment started from September 1, 2014 when no services had been rendered at that time.

The prosecutor stated that the agreement resulted in an unearned two years’ payment of $5,141,905.66 by SSNIT to the consortium through Mensah.

She said investigations established that although the OBS system was not performing as efficiently as contracted for, Mr. Thompson gave authorisation for various payments.

Further investigations indicated that, PBS allegedly represented by Mrs. Kramer is a non-existent company and that accused had no capacity to represent the company.

According to the A-G, investigations also revealed that Afaglo secured employment at SSNIT with fake certificates and that other certificates purportedly obtained by accused from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Cincinnati were not genuine.

The case has been adjourned to October 17.

BY MALIK SULLEMANA

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