SSNIT $ 66 million contract case adjourned to Dec 14

Mr Ernest Thompson.

Mr Ernest Thompson.

An Accra High Court yesterday adjourned to December 14, the case in which Mr. Ernest Thompson, the immediate past Director General of Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), and four others, are standing trial for willfully causing financial loss to the state, regarding a contract worth $ 66 million.

This is to enable accused to study pre-trial disclosure documents filed by office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, on September 24, 2018.

Mr. Thompson and others accused, John Hagan Mensah, a former IT Manager at SSNIT, Juliet Hassana Kramer, the Chief Executive Officer of Perfect Business Systems (PBS), Caleb Kwaku Afaglo, a former Head of Management Information Systems (MIS) at SSNIT, and Peter Hayibor, the lawyer for SSNIT, have pleaded not guilty to all 29 charges preferred against them, when they appeared before court on July 24.

The prosecutor, Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), told the court presided by Justice Henry Anthony Kwofie, a Court of Appeal Judge, sitting with additional responsibilities as a High Court Judge, that the 127 page documents, including pen drives were filed pursuant to a Supreme Court ruling, which ordered the prosecution to make extensive pre-trial disclosure of documents to accused in a summary trial.

However, lawyers for accused said they were not served with copies of the documents, and asked for a three-month adjournment, to enable them to peruse the documents.

Their request was turned down as the Judge gave the lawyers eight weeks to go through the documents.

Mr. Thompson, Mensah, and Kramer, who was awarded the contract, are facing 16 counts of conspiracy to commit crime and willfully causing financial to the state in contravention of the Public Procurement Act (PPA).

Mr. Afaglo, Kramer, Mr Thompson and Mensah are facing another count of conspiracy to commit crime.

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

The facts according to the prosecution are 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.

Mrs. Obuobisa 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 $34,0119,914.21 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 the external stakeholders of SSNIT.

Prosecution said the contract, which covered the head office including 55 sites was to be completed in 15 months.

The DPP 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 OPBS for items, which were already covered by the contract, thereby ballooning the total $34,011,914.21 to $66,783,148.08 through what accused referred as “change orders” and “variations”.

The said change orders and variations, the prosecutor noted 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, the prosecutor 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 in 2014, when no service had been rendered.

BY MALIK SULLEMANA                      

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