Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, the vice president of Ghana has disclosed how the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) government’s contract worth about GH¢4.6 billion ($1.2 billion) is going to be executed by President Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration for less than $4 million.
The multi-billion dollar project involved the establishment of a national switch to make mobile money payments and other transfers interoperable (i.e. link to each other).
It was awarded to a company called Sibton Switch Systems Limited by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) under Governor Dr. Abdul-Nashiru Issahaku, who resigned not too long ago.
“What is even more remarkable about what has happened is that again, a lot of people were quoting billions of dollars and it became an issue of public debate, but by the way, this system has now been built for less than $4 million dollars,” the vice president disclosed at the University of Cape Coast on Wednesday when he gave a public lecture on institutional advancement.
The project in question is called the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Limited (GhIPSS) which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bank of Ghana, incorporated in May 2007 with a mandate to implement and manage interoperable payment system infrastructure for banks and non-bank financial institutions.
Dr Bawumia, who spoke on the theme, “Building stronger economies for African countries; the missing link,” said the Akufo-Addo-led administration is determined to ensure value for money in every transaction that it undertakes.
“There were many people who were offering similar solutions, but thankfully, the BoG, in collaboration with GhIPSS, has finally been able to solve this problem and the interoperability system for Ghana will be launched next month,” he said, adding, “We have to protect the public purse and that allows us to build our productive capacity.”
He continued, “Having an interoperable payments system among banks, mobile operators and other financial and non-financial sector players enables people to make payments to anyone else in a convenient, affordable, fast, seamless and secure way with one account.”
The vice president, who is an economic guru, said, “Payments for our buying and selling will be made far easier throughout the country. Interoperability is key to financial inclusion. Thankfully, Ghana will launch an interoperable payment system in November this year.”
He also announced that the government was going to launch a digital addressing system in two weeks at the cost of $2.5 million, saying that the project would ensure that “even if you live in the middle of the River Oti, you can be traced.”
He said the digital addressing system is expected to provide addresses to 16.1 billion locations in the country, adding, “Every 5 by 5 metres square will be provided with an address.”
According to Dr Bawumia, the NPP government is convinced that to build the productive capacity of the country, it is important to know who is in the country and where people actually live, and added that the launch of the biometric National ID would serve as catalyst for accelerated development.
“If you are looking to somebody’s house, the koko seller on the right, the blue kiosk on the left by the gutter before you get there and then the day the koko seller does not come, you are in trouble,” he noted jokingly and added that everything is going to change very soon.
“It is very exciting,” he said, and explained that the addressing system is GPRS-enabled and is more advanced than the systems of powerful economies.
Dr Bawumia was even more excited in pointing out that the digital system is “actually designed by Ghanaians at Dansoman.”
In February – in the heat of the transition – Sibton Switch Systems vehemently defended the GH¢4.6 billion cost for the establishment of an interoperable platform.
The company insisted that the quality and extent of services provided by the platform, guaranteed its selection by the central bank.
“It’s a long term infrastructure; it’s a retail payment system that does not just cover one party which will be interoperability for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). It cuts across the entire retail payment systems; it comes with MNOs, banks, aggregators, merchants, among others,” an official of Sibton Switch systems, Keiko Wantanabe, had explained on Citi FM.
She added, “If we believe that this amount is what is going to get us this infrastructure, then we’re investing this amount into it.”
The company had been selected from three institutions that put in bids; the value of Sibton’s bid was GH¢ 4,669,414,340.82 was deemed relatively higher than two other bidding competitors – Vals Intel Limited and Mericom Solutions Limited – which quoted GH¢14 million and GH¢ 5.5 million respectively.
The contract to Sibton Switch Systems Limited was seen by many industry experts as unnecessary and shady.
DAILY GUIDE learnt that minutes of a tender committee meeting on Monday, July 04, 2016, captured the bids submitted by all the three interested companies.
The tender committee, then chaired by Innocent Asamoah, in its remarks after the evaluation of the tenders, concluded that all three were responsive and met their expectations and so awarded the contract to Sibton Switch Systems Limited, which DAILY GUIDE learnt – had Roland Agambire of RLG fame highly connected to it.
This led Vas InteL Limited to write to the BoG to protest the award of the contract to Sibton Switch Systems Limited.
In its letter dated July 25, 2016, Vas Intel wrote that it was conceivably impracticable for the BoG to award a contract to Sibton within six business days after the opening of tenders on July 4, 2016.
According to the letter, “All procurement actions taken by the BoG pursuant to Act 663, must be done with a strict and uncompromising adherence to the principles of transparency and fairness so as to protect and preserve public property and interest, as well as the integrity of the laws governing public procurement within the territory of the Republic of Ghana.”
Telecom operators in the country were also unhappy about moves by the central bank to impose on them a third-party company which will be intermediate in mobile money transactions across different networks.