Business News of Thursday, 17 May 2018
The debate over the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) ‘dodgy’ GH¢4.6 billion contract that was to establish a national switch to make mobile money payments and other transfers interoperable (i.e. link to each other) in the banking and the financial system does not appear to be dying anytime soon.
This is because the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, through the Ministry of Information, has rubbished the spirited defence put up by a former deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), Dr Johnson P. Asiama, on behalf of the NDC over the cost of the contract, which has set tongues wagging following Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia’s revelation that the contract sum was bloated.
Dr. Asiama, who defended what many see as an attempt by the then Mahama-led NDC government to ‘create, loot and share the proceeds of the GH¢4.6 billion contract, said on Monday that he was involved in the whole deal but the amount mentioned was not true.
However, he was unable to tell the public the exact contract sum.
He started playing victim and said some politicians were misrepresenting the facts in order to tarnish his reputation.
Interestingly, nowhere had Dr Asiama – who resigned from the Bank of Ghana in bizarre circumstances – been mentioned in connection with the dodgy deal, which is said to have been cooked for the eventual winner – Sibton Switch Systems Limited – allegedly fronted by Roland Agambire of rlg fame.
Gov’t Saves $1.2bn
A Deputy Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, at a news conference in Accra on Tuesday, insisted that the Akufo-Addo-led government saved the country from “unjustified extortion” by the erstwhile Mahama administration by re-awarding the contract to the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS).
He said had the Mahama government won the election on December 7, 2016, it was going to use GH¢4.6 billion for the project but the Akufo-Addo administration has been able to complete the same project with only GH¢18.4 million, adding, “This government saved the country over $1.2 billion.”
According to Mr Oppong Nkrumah, who doubles as MP for Ofoase Ayirebi, “The Akufo-Addo administration at this stage is pleased to have had the opportunity to engage all the stakeholders to correct what would have been an unjustified extortion from the good people of Ghana if the old deal had not been abrogated.”
According to him, per the earlier agreement, the Bank of Ghana agreed that Sibton charges “the users of the platform, and who are the users of this platform predominantly? These are market women, farmers and drivers. People in the lower class are those who massively use these platforms that have been rolled out. Their arrangement was that the company, Sibton, should charge these people $1.2bn; that is essentially what they did.
“Government, through the Bank of Ghana and GhIPPS, is paying $4.5m and the Ghanaian at the end, who normally uses this platform, does not need to pay a private company $1.2bn for their profit. This is a big saving to the people of Ghana.” Mr. Oppong Nkrumah said, “The arrangement begs the question why GhIPPS was not even invited in the first place to do the job. Remember GhIPPS was set up to develop an interbank payment platform here in Ghana, so, if you are moving a step further to add interoperability platform, it only makes sense that GhIPPS be requested or charged to do the job and that is what we have done currently. It will make some people ask if somebody was creating a convenient scheme for persons to benefit.”
He dispelled suggestions that the initial deal was the best, adding, “There is no EOCO report that claims that the Sibton deal is the best deal.”
NDC’s Claim Rubbished
The NDC alibi that the project was in phases has been rubbished by GhIPPS’ Chief Executive Officer, Archie Hesse, who confirmed that the entire project cost is $4.5 million.
“I know there has been a lot of a talk about the cost of the mobile money interoperability project, but the Central Bank owns it 100%, and we have a range of deliverables to meet, which includes mobile money. As a result, we spoke to our parent company – the Central Bank – and they gave a loan of $4.5 million to solve up the capability of our system to meet this particular demand,” he told Citi FM in Accra.
In spite of the explanation, Denzel Lawson, CEO of Sibton, has said that the GH¢4.6 billion cost being bandied about by the NPP government is ‘rubbish.’
He told Starr FM via telephone from his base in Australia that “Now I understand that to put in place the Bank of Ghana infrastructure in GhIPPS, they actually have to spend four or five million dollars to do that, so, actually the country is four or five million dollars worse off than it was before, by scrapping the deal it had with Sibton Switch, so, you know, it’s rubbish.