When the state-owned and operated largest insurer in the country, the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) decided to install a software and hardware system known as Operational Business Suite (OBS) with the aim to digitize the Trust, little did it know that it will cause complication for workers and administrators and put them into some kind of trouble.
We are told that the original cost of the contract was $34 dollars. Having been bid on by some 10 software companies, the contract had been won by a consortium of two companies – Perfect Business Systems (PBS) and Silverlake Consortium (SC).
But SSNIT failed to properly scope the contract and so IT Infrastructure was found not fit for purpose after spending $34 million. So an additional request was made in an attempt to fix the oversight leading to several added cost ballooning the figure to $72 million. And this is what has got so many people talking. How an amount as much as $72 million was spent on a digitization process when it could have been less is what Ghanaians do not get.
And the worst part of it is that the system has not been functioning fully as expected despite spending that astronomical amount on it so far. You might say that software projects worldwide fail all the time, but almost not for the haphazard reasons this one did. It’s rather sad how we can allow hard earned tax payer’s money go to waste like this.
Yes, the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) has so far subpoenaed 15 witnesses over the matter. But that should not be all. Scores of Ghanaians believe that those at SSNIT who had oversight of this project have simply left the ordinary pensioner down, and in fact, the whole country – the programme managers, the technical team, the project managers, and the finance people have all failed in this.
The thing is: If those involved had produced a well and proper business requirement specification and had properly drawn out a scope of the product required, the country would not be paying this huge amount for the project.
As the founder of policy think-tank Imani Ghana put it: “the companies that were shortlisted, the Ghanaian partner was said to have zero experience from what they were supposed to do. When we started looking at this matter three years ago, we had no information as has been leaked right now but we knew that Perfect Business Systems had actually zero experience and that is what we put out at the time.”
“So we were not surprised that things turn out the way it is now that the whole thing they bought was meant for something completely different. It tells you that basic information system within SSNIT itself is caput,” he said in an interview on Accra-based Citi FM.
He even believed that the whole project should have cost $5 million - $1 million for the software component of the process and $4 million for the hardware aspect. So we could have spent less on the whole thing after all…hmmm.
READ ALSO: SSNIT must be overhauled – Expert
Anyways, some believe that the board should be given the benefit of the doubt, and be made to explain how the huge amount flying around was arrived at; there should be a forensic audit and all.
Yet, others disagree. For them, people who worked at SSNIT at the time, including Professor Joshua Alabi, Kwame Peprah, and others but failed to speak out publicly over it to protect the interest of Ghanaians and particularly the pensioner should also take the blame for the matters that have arisen.
As the president of the country, Nana Akufo-Addo reiterated at the just ended national delegates conference of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the special prosecutor’s office is coming within the next two months to begin the prosecution of officials of the Mahama-led administration who have been found to have misappropriated public funds. Those found culpable would be put before the court from October.
But the government may rather be hauled before the court over the seizure of equipment of Exton Cubic Group Limited, the company involved in the Nyinahini Bauxite mining controversy.
It will be recalled that earlier this week, the Ashanti regional minister seized equipment and logistics belonging to Exton Cubic’s subcontractor Engineers and Planners, and has since vowed not to release them until the company provides documents to show that they have the license to explore the Nyinahini bauxite concession.
But the company has argued that the state is wrongfully interfering with their right to prospect on the concession when their equipment were seized.
In a statement to the Attorney General of a possible legal suit over the matter, the company said that the recent development is making them incur financial losses.
But even as the legal issues in this matter need serious attention, let’s not forget that residents of Nyinahini are fiercely against the company’s decision to prospect for bauxite in the area and have already staged a protest over the matter.
Thus, even though Exton begins to battle the legal issues involved, it must also start a comprehensive community and stakeholder engagement with the residents of Nyinahini.
Note that a company can have all the required legal documents to explore and mine but without engaging the community whose land is going to be appropriated, any mining activity would not succeed.
Besides, one can say that the timing at which Exton is beginning these prospecting activities is wrong. Yes, they are a Ghanaian company and would employ Ghanaians in their operations and even retain their profits in the country unlike multi-national companies, but the truth is that at the time the government is fighting galamsey and asking mining companies without proper mining licenses to halt operations, allowing any other company to go ahead with a somewhat similar activity is recipe for disaster. Let’s think about this!