Home   >   Politics   >   Politics   >   201310
GH144m Subah Scandal: GRA Boss Runs Away
 
<< Prev  |  Next >>
 
29-Oct-2013  
Comments ( 0 )     Email    Print
       
 
 
 
 
Related Stories
 
Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), George Blankson, on Monday, virtually ran out of a press conference amidst an unending barrage of hard-hitting questions from both local and international journalists about his outfits controversial multi-million contract with Messrs Subah Infosolutions Ghana Ltd, in which the company is said to have pocketed GH144million for no job done.

Mr Blankson conceded that Subah had failed to fulfil the terms of the agreement, but insisted that the money paid was not up to the GH144million figure being bandied about, even though calculations from records of the company through bank transfers showed that over GH144million had been paid.

The hurriedly organized press conference was called by the GRA to set the records straight.

However, Mr Blankson unceremoniously left midway into the session, claiming that he had been called for an emergency meeting, bringing proceedings to an abrupt end.

A mild commotion ensued as journalists who suspected he was coyly trying to avoid their questions, insisted he stayed because the session was as important to the general public as his emergency meeting.

Mr. Blanksons exit from the press conference left several unanswered questions about the contract that had been branded by critics as a scam, particularly because the contract had seen GRA paying Subah Infosolutions an IT company owned by Joseph Siaw Agyepong of Jospong Group of Companies, mainly known by its flagship company, Zoomlion- a whopping GH74.4million within three years.

Blankson said its [Subah Infosolutions] not working fully in accordance with the terms of the contract.

Indeed, when the cover of the deal was blown by the media last week with the consequent outrage from the general public, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning on Sunday quickly issued a press statement, stating that the Finance Ministry blocked payments to Subah in May 2013 because concerns had been raised by the Minister [Seth Terkper] about the efficiency in implementation of this particular agreement.

The statement, issued under the hand of the Deputy Minister of Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, claimed that a team had been put together by the Ministry of Finance to review recommendations to the substantive Minister about a possible renegotiation of the contract, which was expected to elapse in May 2015.

Contract

Subah Infosolutions was in 2010 awarded a contract to monitor telecom companies and ascertain the total volume of calls traffic on their network to be able to accurately calculate how much Communications Service Tax (CST) was deductable from them. Also, the company was tasked to verify the correct tariffs on individual calls within the networks to correctly calculate taxes on them.

According to the terms of the contract, Subah was expected to physically install its monitoring devices at the premises of the telecom companies, but the companies had denied that such a monitoring system was ever incorporated into their systems by Subah.

The GRA boss confirmed this non-compliance by Subah, stating that an alternative arrangement was made whereby the telecom companies generated their own trend of call traffic volume on a Compact Disc (CD); submitted it to the telecom regulator- National Communication Authority (NCA)- which in turn passes on the CDs to Subah for analysis for tax purposes.

In the wake of signing of the service agreement, Subah requested to physically connect its equipment to the physical network nodes of the Telcos; but the request for physical access was denied by the Telcos, citing the risk of Subah listening in on the conversation and messages of their customers. Subah could not therefore have access to the physical network nodes of the Telcos, Mr. Blankson explained.

According to the GRA boss, In the circumstance, Subah have been carrying out only the monitoring relating to verification of the application of the correct CST to the volume of traffic declared by the Telcos. This is done by Subah obtaining the CDs on the volume of traffic supplied by the Telcos to NCA containing the details of the traffic volumes they declared.

NCA had equally denied knowing about the contract to monitor calls by Subah.

But critics had questioned this arrangement as it compromised the very essence of accountability being demanded by the revenue agency GRA.

Waving hands in consent

Another knotty part of the deal was how Subah was handed the contract: Subah had almost no known track record in this area of telecom revenue monitoring because the company was set up in 2009 and was sole-sourced for the deal in 2010.

When quizzed, the GRA boss absolved himself, saying he did not know about the genesis of the contract awarded to Subah because he was then not appointed to the GRAs top-job.

According to him, the deal was sealed between the Revenue Agencies Governing Board (RAGB), then headed by Sellas Mensah, GRAs predecessor agency.

Sellas Mensah is now Executive Secretary of the Public Procurement Authority, the very organisation that granted Subah the sole sourcing right.

At the time I took over [as GRA boss] the process had virtually been concluded and when it [the contract] was signed, I just witnessed it, he told dissatisfied journalists who mumbled curiously about the explanation which was not clear whether the witnessing was official or a mere observatory witnessing.

At this point, Mr. Blankson sought to clarify what he meant by witnessed it, saying that the documents showed that all due processes had been followed.

I see [waving his hand, gesturing to demonstrate his role in merely seeing the contract], we are not saying that Im even signing or executing the contract, we are just saying that ya, I witnessed that this contract has been signed.

He did not indicate whether the seeing part was officially captured or not, leaving journalists to scratch their heads in confusion.

He however lauded the contract, saying that it passed though all the due processes. What I did was to ensure that it went through all the due processes, it wasnt within my purview to justify, in any case, I was not the one signing it.

Duplication

DAILY GUIDE can confirm that apparently, an earlier telecom revenue monitoring contract had been worked out between the NCA and a globally acclaimed monitoring company from Haiti- Global Voice Group (GVG).

In the agreement, GVG was expected to acquire telecom traffic verification devices to be installed at each switch of Telecom companies to collect real time data on traffic volumes, particularly international call traffic.

The service allows the Government to make sure that call detail records and the corresponding amounts to be collected by NCA on behalf of the State are accurate, the protests of the telecom companies in GVG installing their devices at their premises for fear of listening in culminated in the enactment of the Electronic Communication Amendment Act (Act 876).

As at 2012, the GVG had raked in over $147million for the Ghana government in revenue. It is however unclear how the GVG was circumvented for Subah.

When questioned, the GRA boss claimed he did not know anything about that, because at the time the deals were being sealed, he was not head of the GRA.

Sole Sourced

The deal with Subah was sole-sourced, bypassing the rigorous procurement procedure; but the basis of the sole-sourcing had been questioned because in the Procurement Act (Act 663) of 2003, a company can only get the privilege where goods, works or services are only available to it or if a particular supplier or contractor has exclusive rights in respect of the goods, works or services, and no reasonable alternative or substitute exists, states the Act.

The Act also stipulates that sole-sourcing can only be done where there is an urgent need for the goods, works or services and engaging in tender proceedings or any other method of procurement is impractical due to unforeseeable circumstances, giving rise to the urgency which is not the result of dilatory conduct on the part of the procurement entity.

Speculations are rife that Subah got the deal because of its mother company, Jospong Groups rosy relations with the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).

More Questions

Meanwhile, the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), the local arm of global anti-corruption agency, Transparency International, has slammed the GRA-Subah contract, saying it reeks of corruption.

The contract is worth $100million per year. But DAILY GUIDE can confirm that the law allowing the contract was only passed in July 2013; thus the company was paid millions without any legal basis.

Documents available to DAILY GUIDE indicate that the GRA funds paid to Subah was channelled through the companys Stanbic Bank Account number 0140002687401.

Executive Director of GII, Vitus Azeem, has also questioned the whole transaction, asking why government is now releasing information on the role it played to halt payments to Subah Infosolutions.

Why did they have to wait until this time to come out and tell us? Is it because the thing has come out? he asked.

According to the Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative, the issue is not just stopping the payments since there have been payments for the past two and a half years, he charged.

I think what they have said does not respond adequately to the issues of concern.

By Charles Takyi-Boadu & Raphael Ofori-Adeniran
 
 
 
Source: Daily Guide
 
 

Comments ( 0 ): Post Your Comments >>

 
 
 
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of Peacefmonline.com. Peacefmonline.com accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.