Some thirteen (13) witnesses the State intends to rely on to establish its charges preferred against the accused persons in the case of the Republic versus Ernest Thompson and four others are demanding a firm guarantee from the state that their jobs will not be at risk in the event that there is a change of government after they have testified in the trial.
The witnesses who are all current staff of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), according to State Prosecutors are afraid that they will be subjected to transfers and dismissals as has been the case with some of their colleagues who testified in previous cases after political power changed hands in the country.
The Accused Persons
The former Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust, (SSNIT), Ernest Thompson, together with four others have pleaded not guilty to all 29 counts of causing financial loss to the state over charges preferred against them by the state. The five accused persons have been charged over the award of a $72million Operating Business Suite (OBS) contract. The four other accused persons are former Head of the SSNIT Information Technology (IT) Department, Caleb Kwaku Afaglo; former OBS project manager; John Hagan Mensah and Juliet Hasana Kramah, Managing Proprietor of Perfect Business Systems and Peter Hayibor.
The state together with the defence team were expected to commence the case management conference in Justice Henry Kwofie’s court on the 19th of December 2019. However, senior State Attorney, Richard Gyambibi, told the court that the state is hopeful that it will clear the predicament with its witnesses to allow the case management conference to be held at the next court sitting.
The defence lawyers did not object to the request of the state. However, lawyer for the third accused person, Thaddeus Sory, indicated that the state appears to be delaying their own case.
Court of Appeal Judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court Judge, Justice Henry Kwofie, adjourned sitting to the 22nd of January 2020, giving ample time for the state to put its house in order.
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 Sdn Bhd (Siiverlake), 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 softwares 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 implermentation 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 ofices totalling 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 was 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. The 5th accused person had concurred with the advice of the Corporate Law Manager and undertook to take up the matter with the 1st accused person but failed to do so. Contrary to his own expressed disagreement to the intended overpayment as contained in the SLA, the 5th accused person witnessed to the signature of the 1st accused person in the SLA containing the falsified term.”
“Investigations established that though the OBS system was not performing as efficiently as contracted for, the 1st accused person gave authorisation for the various payments which culminated in the losses as stated in the charge sheet. Investigations also indicated that PBS purportedly represented by the 3rd accused person is a non-existent company.
Investigations further revealed that the 3rd accused person had no capacity to represent Silverlake. Further investigations revealed that the 4th accused person, in applying for employment at SSNIT, submitted and relied on certificates purporting to be educational qualifications he did not possess. Based on those fake certificates, he gained employment at SSNIT as the General Manager for MIS on 1st October 2015.
The facts sheet concluded by indicating, “Investigations also revealed that the 4th accused person’s certificates purported to have been obtained from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Cincinnati are not genuine.”