Confusion mars NIA US$115 million loan

General News of Friday, 3 October 2014

Source: The Republic

National Identification Authority

Confusion is said to have rocked the delegation of National Identification Authority (NIA) and some government officials who ‘hastily’ sidelined the general government machinery and went cup-in-hand to China to source the controversial US$115 million from the Chinese Export Import (Exim).

The Ghanaian Ambassador to China, H.E Helen Mamle Kofi is said to have been embarrassed by the situation that she asked the delegation to bring the situation to the attention of the ‘appropriate authorities’.

According to an intercepted debriefing report prepared by the delegations rapporteur after the Ghanaian delegation stormed Shanghai China in May 2012 for the processes for securing the multi-million dollar loan for the infamous system upgrade of the NIA’s national ID card project was riddled with inconsistencies, forcing the leader of the delegation and Minister of State at the Presidency then, Dr. K. Akyem Apea-Kubi to protest about how the meetings were shrouded in secrecy.

The NIA in 2012 entered into an agreement with the China Integrated Circuit Design Corporation Limited (CIDC) to undertake the upgrade which will mean scrapping millions of registered data costing over US$ 20 million in the archive of the NIA, the new system which will re-register Ghanaians at huge new multi-million dollar cost to the state.

Details of this facility have been sketchy and mostly confined within the bosom of the NIA and its newly appointed private partner, Identity Management Systems (IMS).

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According to the Deputy Minister for Communications, Ato Sarpong, the administration of John Dramani Mahama is unaware of the NIA’s moves to secure the $115 million it plans to use for its controversial system upgrade and issuance of new identification cards to Ghanaians under the National Identification System (NIS).

“That was not a government decision. Government has not heard of the facility and did not approve it… it’s not even true the proposal is before Parliament because it would have to go through Cabinet for consideration before it gets to Parliament,” Ato Sarpong told the media last week.

Documents available to the Republic newspaper indicates that on 26th June 2012, the NIA, then headed by Dr. William Ahadzie, wrote to the Samuel Salla Mensah-led Public Procurement Authority (PPA) to ‘sole-source’ the controversial US$115 million from China Intergrated Design Corporation (CIDC).

Barely a month upon this request, the PPA wrote back to the NIA giving approval for it to sole-source the funds from China. The PPA responded to the NIA on July 12, 2012 informing the authority of its approval.

“…the Board decided that approval should be granted National Identification Authority in accordance with Section 72 (50) (a) of the Act 663 to sole source China Integrated Circuit Design Corporation Limited (CIDC) to undertake the integrated system upgrade of the National Identification System of the Authority in order to implement its mandate under Act 750 at an estimated cost of US$114,965,116.96,” stated the approval letter signed by Sallas Mensah.

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The NIA had started the process of sole-sourcing the funds from the CIDC since April 2012. It is unclear the parameters that the NIA decided to sole-source from the CIDC. There are strict regulations guiding public institutions’ decision to sole-source procurement from third parties, including the fact that the third party should have exclusivity over whatever support they may be granting, otherwise such a move for support should be subjected to competitive bidding.

Experts have criticized the NIA’s move because the technology needed for its claimed system upgrade is not exclusive to CIDC and besides, the original supplier of the equipment, France-based Sagem Securite (now known as Safran Morpho), is said to have proposed to upgrade the system for the NIA at an almost insignificant cost.

When they went to China, the NIA delegation were said to have presented multiple proposals, forcing a deputy minister of Commerce for China to scold the delegation to put their house in order and present a consistent request.

“The Hon. Minister and leader of the delegation raised concerns about not being apprised of the full details of the visit,” the rapporteur wrote in the report intercepted by the Republic newspaper.

Apparently, when they went to China and in the middle of negotiations for the loan facility, one member of the delegation was secretly ushered into another meeting with officials of the Chinese Exim Bank away from his team and at the blind side of the leader of the delegation.

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It is unclear what was discussed in the meeting but according to the report; Dr. Apea-Kubi was supposedly briefed about the interaction after he strongly protested and asked that he be briefed.

The delegation comprised parliamentarians such as Hon. James Klutse Avedzi, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Finance Committee, Hon Anthony Akoto Osei, a Ranking member of the Finance Committee, Dr. William K. Ahadzie, the former Executive Secretary of the NIA, Mr. Lawrence N.O Adjettey, the Chairman of the NIA’s governing board and other officials from the Ministry of Finance and the NIA.

The beleaguered NIA has been at the cold end of serious criticisms from the general public for what has been described as wasteful use of public resources. The company has currently lined up a series of face-saving communication strategies to redeem its battered image.

The authority would stage series of press encounters to seek to present their side of the story.