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Ernest Thompson Trial: Heard Behind Closed-Door

The Court of Appeal Judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court Judge, Justice Henry Kwofie, adjourned sitting to 13th March, 2020 in the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT)-OBS contract saga.

This adjournment was made after the Court had held closed-door sitting with all five accused persons and their Counsels including representatives of the State Attorney in the Justice’s inner chamber.

The reporter has been told upon further investigations that the kind of sitting that the Court observed is called case management in legal parlance.

Background

The five accused persons were charged over the award of a $72million Operating Business Suite (OBS) contract.

They are the former Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust, (SSNIT), Ernest Thompson, together with four accused persons namely; former Head of the SSNIT Information Technology (IT) Department, Caleb Kwaku Afaglo; former OBS project manager; John Hagan Mensah and Juliet Hassana Kramah, Managing Proprietor of Perfect Business Systems and Peter Hayibor, SSNIT-General Counsel.

According to the fact sheets of the State, Ernest Thompson, the 1st accused person, was the Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) between May 2013 and January 2017.

The 2nd accused person John Hagan Mensah was the Information Technology (IT) Infrastructure Manager of SSNIT until he was appointed the Operational Business Suite (OBS) Project-Manager in December 2012.

Juliet Hassana Kramer, the 3rd accused person, describes herself variously as the Chief Executive Officer of Perfect Business Systems and Silverlake Structured Services(Silverlake), and also Chief Executive Officer of Perfect Business Services Ltd trading in the name of Perfect Business Systems.

The 4th accused person, Caleb Kwaku Afaglo, was the General Manager of Management Information Systems (MIS) at SSNIT between October 2015 and January 2017.

The 5th accused person, Peter Hayibor, was at all material times the General Counsel of SSNIT.

In June 2010, SSNIT developed an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Strategic Plan to reflect current changes in its operational processes and to conform with new trends in the lCT industry.

The plan envisioned the development and implementation of a new soft-wares solution known as Operational Business Suite (OBS), to provide a state-of-the-art pension administration system on a turnkey basis for SSNIT.

The facts further states 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 Systems Limited (PBS) did not participate in the bidding, on 15 November 2012, the contract was awarded jointly to Silverlake, a Malaysian Information Technology (IT) solutions provider, and PBS purportedly as a consortium at a contract sum of $34,011,914.21 inclusive of 14% contingency and 17.5% Value Added Tax.

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.”

“The contract which covered the head office as well as area and branch offices totaling 55 sites was to be completed within eighteen months.

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,” the facts sheet stated.

“Contrary to the terms of the contract, the 1st, 3rd and 4th accused persons caused payments to be made by SSNIT to PBS for items which were already covered by the contract sum thereby ballooning the contract sum of $34,011,914.21 to US$66,783,148.08 through what were termed variously as “change orders” and “variations”.

The so-called variations or change orders were carried out at the instance of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th accused persons and authorised by the 1st accused person even though some of the payments were above his threshold as Director-General and contrary to the Public Procurement Act.”

The fact sheets go on to state that “on 15th January 2016, SSNIT entered into a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the so-called consortium (PBS/Silverlake) represented by the 3rd accused person in the sum $2,570,976.41 per annum for maintenance and warranty for three years.

Although the maintenance and warranty agreement were executed in 2016, payment started from 1st September 2014 when no services had been rendered at that time.

The payments were made contrary to the terms of the OBS contract and also the advice of the Corporate Law Manager against the payments resulting in an unearned two years payment of $5,141,905.66 by SSNIT to the consortium through the 2nd accused person.

Source: The Punch Newspaper

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