$72m SSNIT Saga: We Can't Speak Without "Expert Advice" – Minority

The Minority in Parliament has said it needs "expert advice" before it can make comments on the $72 million software procurement controversy that has been unraveled at the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).

The procurement happened during the Mahama administration.

"I’m studying the subject with some experts,” Mr Haruna Iddrisu told journalists at a press conference on Tuesday, 5 September when asked why the Minority has been silent on the matter since it came into the public domain.

"Don’t forget that myself I was the Minister who oversaw pensions and I do have a position on the prudent management of pension resources", the Tamale South MP said, adding" "At the appropriate time when I’m satisfied with the details, we would address the public on this and many issues."

He continued: " . . In fact last week, there was a meeting on the particular subject . . . We don’t just want to talk as a Minority, I need expert advice . . . We are studying; we don’t want to be a Minority that just rushes to say [things]".

The Director-General of SSNIT, Dr John Ofori Tenkorang revealed a few weeks ago that the OBS software procured by the state pension scheme has cost the taxpayer $72 million so far, and still counting, and not $66 million as earlier quoted by the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Dr Kwame Addo Kufuor.

According to him, since the system is not functional and being worked on every now and then, the eventual cost will definitely be higher than the current $72 million quoted.

That cost, Dr Ofori Tenkorang explained, includes the cost of the original tender and any subsequent modifications and on-going yearly support fees that “we pay, so the number is still ticking and it’s running so the number is huge, I can tell you it’s in excess of $66million.”

He told Accra-based Citi FM, “The last time a number was communicated to me, the number stood at $72million but I can tell you that the system is still not functioning as it should and each time we have to make revisions or get certain corrections made, these things are billed as change requests which are also billable so until the system is fully deployed and working properly, there is a chance that the number will be bigger than what I’ve actually mentioned to you right now.”

The initial cost of the contract was $34million.

Meanwhile, the former Director-General of SSNIT, Ernest Thompson, has said there is nothing wrong with the $66million software contract approved by the previous board.

The Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) is currently investigating five former officials of SSNIT in connection with alleged financial malfeasance relating to the procurement of the OBS software.

According to current Board Chairman of SSNIT, Dr Kwame Addo Kufuor, some 15 more officers have also been invited to assist in investigating corrupt activities at the pension scheme.

Mr Kufuor, who did not provide details of the exact nature of the investigation, made this known at the signing of an audit agreement between the pension scheme and PricewaterhouseCoopers to review the financial records of the Trust in Accra on Tuesday, 22 August 2017.

“From my conversations, five people are being investigated and about 15 have been called as witnesses, but five are being investigated,” he stated.

The software was to help in networking all branches of SSNIT across the country to enable them receive real-time data directly from the headquarters in Accra and enhance efficiency.

But Mr Thompson told Accra-based Joy FM on Wednesday that: “Seriously speaking, it is not a very simple software.

“We are able to identify contributors at a click of a button and we are able to pay benefits in no time, and we are also able to validate contribution reports online for payment on the SSNIT portal.”

He added: “In fact, I didn’t find anything wrong with it and the new board did not find anything wrong with it.”

Also, former Board Chair of SSNIT, Prof Joshua Alabi, has said his board queried the inherited software contract which he said was approved by a predecessor board because the management went beyond the approved figure.

Dissociating himself from the alleged rot, Prof Alabi, who is speculated to be eyeing the presidential slot of the main opposition National Democratic Congress, told Accra-based Citi FM in an interview that: “What really happened was that maybe the management went beyond the approved figure and brought it to the board for ratification and we queried it, and this is in the minutes, so this is what I can tell you about that project.

“It was awarded before my board, the management went beyond the contract sum without cause to the board, they came to the board for ratification and we queried it and warned the management but then I also want to believe that the previous board really took into consideration the operations of SSNIT before they awarded that contract and the management also explained to the board that there were some unforeseen expenditure that occurred and that was why they went beyond their contract sum but then we queried them because we said they should have brought it to the board for discussion and approval before awarding it,” the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Professional Studies, Accra, said.