Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Monday, September 18, 2017
The amount involved in the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) scandal has reportedly hit over $81 million.
DAILY GUIDE learnt that preliminary information being gathered by the security agencies is showing that the total amount involved in the troubled SSNIT biometric project dubbed, 'Operation Business Suite,' popularly called (OBS), may even go higher.
The head of the OBS Project, John Hagan Mensah, a confidant of the immediate past SSNIT Director-General, Ernest Thompson, is reportedly in the grips of the security agencies assisting in the investigation.
The scandal sparked public outrage when it emerged that about $72 million was used for the OBS project, which has now reached $81 million as investigations continue.
Some of the faces behind the scandal are also beginning to unravel.
In what can be seen as a clear case of conflict of interest, a source has told DAILY GUIDE that the head of the troubled OBS is allegedly in a relationship with the vendor, whose company was contracted to install the OBS software.
The contract had been awarded to Perfect Business System/ Silver Lake Consortium, whose CEO is Juliet Kramah, in 2011 during the Mills/Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration. There was an initial bidding cost of $27,610,791, but by 2016 the total cost had ballooned to $66 million, later $72 million and now $81 million - and still counting, perhaps.
The cost, according to SSNIT sources, may go up further after the audit by PriceWater House.
Bizarrely, after its installation, the OBS software is not running as expected, although the whopping amount was paid for it. SSNIT sometimes resorts to manual registration instead of electronic because of reported deficiencies in the OBS system.
According to sources, the biometric features which are unique to every individual had been compromised, allowing access to biometric data of another person.
Perfect Business System was one of the highest bidders but SSNIT settled on it, apparently looking down on lower bidders with potential value for money indicators.
Unconfirmed sources say the Perfect Business System boss is believed to have strong links with the powerful former first family; and it is alleged that invoices emanating from the private firm appeared to have gone through without any serious queries at the Trust.
Last Gap Payments
According to the sources, Ernest Thompson, on December 9, last year, allegedly ordered the payment of $9 million to Perfect Business Systems after the NDC had lost the election in 2016 and was on its way out of power.
It was alleged that SSNIT agreed to pay $4 per card that was to be issued to pensioners in the contract but the amount increased miraculously to $7 and the Trust ended up paying the private company $7.1 million for one million cards.
DAILY GUIDE learned that the whole project was not based on SSNIT’s requirement and that the vendor reportedly came in with an already-prepared provident fund system in order to modify it for SSNIT, which runs social security.
The provident fund modification was not SSNIT’s idea but the decision of the project manager and the private firm.
The source said when SSNIT requested for thumb print devices that could scan all the ten fingers at once, the vendor provided a single finger device and therefore, a contributor registering needed to put the fingers on the device one at a time thereby wasting productive hours.
“When staff complained, it was never provided. Meanwhile, SSNIT paid for the ten devices at a whopping cost,” he told this paper.
The source said the vendor could not provide the OBS software but rather brought a batch system where a client could only see his/her data reflecting after a day, saying, “SSNIT staff cannot work 24 hours because every staff is asked to sign out of the system after 5pm else the whole SSNIT or that SSNIT branch cannot work the following day,” he added.
There were several outstanding issues according to the source, that needed to be sorted out regarding the OBS project and anytime the company was asked to correct a defect they allegedly asked the Trust to pay hefty bills.
This paper gathered that SSNIT caused the transfer of the well-qualified staff who had deep insight into the OBS project, and brought in the Director-General’s alleged lackeys, including the head of IT, Caleb K. Afaglo - who has been caught allegedly using fake degrees.
It turned out that SSNIT paid a whopping $500,000 for a product that costs $16,000 on the world market under the OBS Project.
It even emerged that SSNIT’s senior corporate law officer, Jaezel Orleans-Lindsay, wrote to warn the Trust’s management against certain aspects of the contract that was being exploited by the private company.
“What it means is that SSNIT will have to pay the annual SLA fee of $2,000,000 immediately upon signing the agreement (to cover for September 2014 to September 2015) and pay another $2,000,000 in September this year, when in effect it would have just received 9 months of service under the SLA instead of the contractual 2 years. This is objectionable!” the lawyer said in a letter to his bosses on January 16, 2016.