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SSNIT Boss In Court Over $72m Scam   
 
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25-Jul-2018  
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Ernest Thompson
 
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Former Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), Ernest Thompson, was yesterday hauled before court for willfully causing financial loss to the state.

He was in court with four others who allegedly played various roles in the $72 million Information Technology (IT) scam at SSNIT.

Interestingly, Joshua Alabi, the Board Chairman of SSNIT at the time was not in court.

Mr. Thompson and three former management members of SSNIT and a private businesswoman have been accused of causing financial loss to the state in the award of the controversial and failed $72 million IT project – Operational Business Suite (OBS).

The other accused persons are John Hagan Mensah, Information Technology Infrastructure Manager of SSNIT, Juliet Hassana Krama, CEO of Perfect Business Solutions (PBS) Limited, the operator of the OBS, Caleb Kwaku Afaglo, General Manager of Management Information Systems at SSNIT and Peter Hayibor, General Counsel of SSNIT.

They were accused of inflating the contract sum of the OBS from $34,011,914.21 to $66,783,148.08 through what were termed variously as ‘change orders’ and ‘variations.’

Charges

The five accused persons are facing a total of 29 charges, including conspiracy to commit crime, causing financial loss to the state, defrauding by false pretenses, contravention of the Public Procurement Authority Act, as well as possession and authoring of forged documents.

17 Charges

In all, Ernest Thompson, John Hagan Mensah and Julie Hassana Krama are facing 17 charges of conspiracy to commit crime and causing financial loss to the state to the tune of $14,803,299.53.

Ernest Thompson, John Hagan Mensah and Peter Hayibor are also alleged to have caused financial loss to the state in the sum of $5,141,905.66 between January 2016 and September 2016.

Juliet Hassana Krama is facing a further charge of defrauding by false pretenses by obtaining the consent of SSNIT to part with the sum of $66,783,148.08 under a contract to Perfect Business Systems Limited and Silverlake Structured Services for the OBS contract.

Mr Thompson and Ms. Krama are also facing three charges of contravention of the Public Procurement Authority Act by colluding to change the quotation prices for the supply of two servers for the contact centre, Avaya Solutions, to $28,500 instead of the original quotation of $50,000 in order to obtain unfair advantage in the award of the contract to PBS Limited.

Caleb Kwaku Afaglo, on the other hand, is facing a total of seven charges, including defrauding by false pretenses and possession of fake doctorate degree with which he secured his job at SSNIT.

Facts

Presenting the facts, the Attorney General, Gloria Afua Akuffo, told the court that in June 2010, SSNIT developed an information and communications technology strategic plan to reflect current changes in its operational processes and conform with new trends in the ICT industry

She said the Trust envisioned the development and implementation of a new software solution known as Operational Business Suite (OBS) to provide a state-of-the-art pension administration system on turnkey basis for SSNIT.

The AG told the court 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 15thNovember 2012, the contract was awarded jointly to Silverlake, a Malaysian IT solutions provider and PBS purportedly as a consortium at a contract sum of $34,011,914.21, inclusive of 14% contingency and 17% Value Added Tax,” the Ms. Akuffo stated.

She stated that 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 court heard that the contract, which covered the head office as well as area and branch offices of SSNIT totaling 55 sites, was to be completed within 18 months.

The AG noted that 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.

She said contrary to the terms of the contract, Ernest Thompson, Juliet Hassana Krama and Caleb Kwaku Afaglo, caused payments to be made by SSNIT to PBS for items which were already covered by the contract, thereby ballooning the figure from $34,011,914.21 to $66,783,148.08 through what they termed variously as ‘Change orders’ and ‘Variations.’

She said the variations or change orders were carried out at the instance of Ernest Thompson, John Hagan Mensah, Juliet Hassana Krama and Caleb Kwaku Afaglo

The AG said Mr. Thompson authorized payments even though some were above his threshold as director-general in violation of the Public Procurement Authority Act.

She said on January 15, 2016, SSNIT entered into a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the so-called consortium, represented by Ms. Krama in the sum of $2,570,076.41 per annum for maintenance and warranty for three years.

“Although the maintenance and warranty agreement was excluded in 2016, payment started from 1st September, 2014 when no service 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 payment, resulting in an unearned two years’ payment of $5,141,905.66 by SSNIT to the consortium through John Hagan Mensah,” the AG told the court.

She said Peter Hayibor concurred with the corporate law manager and planned to take up the matter with Mr. Thompson but failed to do so.

“Contrary to his own expressed disagreement to the intended overpayment as contained in the SLA, Mr. Hayibor was witness to the signature of Mr. Thompson in the SLA containing the falsified terms,” Ms. Akuffo told the court.

She stated that investigations revealed that though the OBS system was not performing as efficiently as agreed, Mr. Thompson authorized the payments which culminated into the financial loss to the state.

She added that investigations also established that PBS, purportedly represented by Ms. Krama, is non-existent.

“Investigations further revealed that Ms. Krama had no capacity to represent Silverlake.

She said investigations also revealed that Mr. Afaglo submitted fake documents to secure employment with SSNIT.

“Based on the fake certificates, he gained employment at SSNIT as the General Manager of MIS on 1st October, 2015,” the AG stated.

Ms. Akuffo added that investigations also established that Mr. Afaglo’s certificates purported to have been obtained from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Cincinnati were forged.

Bail

The five accused persons have been granted self-recognizance bail subject to changes in the course of the trial.

The court, presided over by Justice Henry Anthony Kwofie, an Appeal Court judge, sitting as an additional High Court judge, adjourned the matter to October 17, 2018 due to the legal vacation, which commences on August 1, 2018.
 
 
Source: Daily Guide
 
 

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