An attempt to seek explanations regarding how a software procured by Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), ended up in Sierra Leone, abruptly truncated after the Public Relations Officer (PRO) barged in and stopped the interview.
The PRO, Victoria Abedu, insisted she would allow the interview with the acting Manager of the Management Information System (MIS), Yaw Nimo, to proceed only if the reporter, restricts the questions.
She only wanted questions to issues relating to the contentious Operational Business Suite (OBS), which SSNIT awarded to Perfect Business Solutions Perfect Business Services Limited to automate the pensions system.
Joy News, had learnt that SSNIT, had allegedly sold the older software to the National Social Security Insurance Trust (NASSIT) of Sierra Leone.
In the middle of the interview, Joy News’ Daniel Dadzie, sought to find out from Mr. Nimo, what role he played in the decision by SSNIT Management to transfer its software to NASSIT. The question became relevant, because of the controversies surrounding the functionality of the new OBS system.
But the Mr Nimo, could barely string a sentence, as the PRO, abruptly interrupted despite the assurance by the acting MIS Manager that he was prepared to answer the questions.
He eventually yielded to pressure from the PRO and said, “Another time you can invite me for that…we are prepared to talk to that but not this forum.”
“I know people are peddling falsehood and we are prepared to talk to it. I’m a software developer you see…you, we will talk about that…there is no issue about it,” he said.
“This Sierra Leone business we can talk about it and I am prepared to talk to let him [the reporter] know exactly what we did and how we were able to do sisterly relations with other countries. That rather enhanced our image at SSNIT and today, the Sierra Leoneans are mentioning our name [SSNIT],” he defended.
Joy News for the past weeks, has been investigating the effectiveness of the OBS at the Trust, following a huge public disaffection after the software scandal broke.
The software was procured to automate the operations at the Trust, however, the software has issues which have negatively affected the automation process, it has said.
SSNIT Director-General, Dr John Kojo Ofori Tenkorang, told Joy News there are currently over 237 issues with the software that have been shared with the vendors.
A private citizen, Kudzo Akpabey, has objected to decision by the SSNIT board led by Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor, to hire the services of accounting firm, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) to conduct an independent review into the US$72Million information technology (ICT) software procured to enhance the day to day running of the Trust.
Mr. Akpabey, who has petitioned the president, Nana Akufo-Addo, says it was completely wrong for the Board, chaired by Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor, to have appointed the private firm at the cost of a whopping US$500, 000 when it lacks expertise to conduct a forensic audit in the matter.
The petitioner suggested a blazing waste of workers’ contribution on an investigation which to him, is not properly defined.
Interestingly, aside paying PWC the said US$500,000 the Economic and Organised Crime Office EOCO is also spending stake resource including precious man hours, money and others investigating the same scandal.
Mr. Akpabey’s petition copied the vice president, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, Chief of Staff, Frema Opare and Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta, insisted that the PWC is made of mainly Chartered Accountants “whose job training, experience and focus are on statutory audits taxation and investment consultancy is therefore not a firm of forensic Auditors and or Fraud Investigators to deal with the alleged US$72 million ICT fraud.
“PWC could thus review the financial records and state of affairs of the Trust as of March 31, 2017 but certainly, not to deal with the alleged $72m ICT fraud as well as, as it lacks the technical and professional competence in Information and Communications Technology (ICT)”, he charged.
But even before Mr. Akpabey’s petition is given audience by the president, an investigative journalism conducted by Joy FM, the media organization that first broke the scandal, has revealed that the software which was initiated tagged by the current management as dysfunctional, is in good shape and working efficiently.
According to the Accra-based radio station, their investigation revealed that key modules of the Operating Business Suite (OBS) are working to expectation. Out of the total 14 modules of the OBS, only one module – the compliance module – is yet to function at full capacity.
The revelation was made by Joy News’ Evans Mensah, Kwetey Nartey and host of Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, Kojo Yankson after weeks of painstakingly probing the claim made by the current SSNIT management.
Current SSNIT Director-General, Dr John Kojo Ofori Tenkorang told Joy News in August, the entire software is not functioning despite the huge money spent on it.
Dr. Ofori Tenkorang, said the non-functioning of the software is due to alterations made on it and some legal regime regulating their operations.
But his predecessor, Ernest Thompson dismissed the claim, saying he was aware only one module was challenged.
“When I was in office, we realized that, that particular module was not giving us the correct figures that we wanted,” he told Joy News.
The initial cost of the software procured to automate processes at SSNIT was US$34 million when it was awarded to Perfect Business Systems and Silver Lake Consortium in 2012. But this ballooned to US$72 million, creating disaffection for the Trust.
However. Joy News’ Kwetey Nartey, said he visited some SSNIT branches to access his pension contributions and expressed fascination at the speed his statement was printed. He said: “within less than a minute I had my statement in hand…and updated my records.”
Joy News, also established that the same SSNIT OBS, was used by government to rid the payroll of over 26,589 ghost names.
A statement by the Finance Ministry, said the cleaning of government’s payroll, saved the country some GH¢35 million.
Joy News’ Evans Mensah ,was emphatic that it will be bluntly “erroneous to simply say the OBS isn’t working without specifying which module is not working.”
But acting Corporate Affairs Director at SSNIT, Victoria Abedu, said their argument was not that the entire software was not functioning.
“The system is not as we were thinking [and] we have always indicated that the system is working but some are not functional,” she clarified.
She defended the claim made by Dr. Tenkorang, saying her boss was rather making reference to those systems that were not working.
She said, the non-functioning of the compliance module could derail the progress of the Trust if it is not addressed.
“Compliance is a big deal when it comes to social security operation so when the compliance module is not working then that is a big loss to SSNIT,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Akpabey, proposed an ad hoc Forensic Audit and Investigation Team of varied expertise to effectively, go into the alleged ICT fraud, since PWC is not a firm of systems analysts and software engineers.
“It would also not suffice for PWC to form an ad hoc ICT Forensic Audit as such a PWC-controlled Forensic Audit Team shall not be, independent; it shall report to PWC, and not to the SSNIT Board, which shall not suffice”, he said.
The petitioner among others made some 14 “Proposed Forensic Audit Terms of Reference”, first of it was to find out “where or not SSNIT’s Procurement Department followed its internal procedures in the ICT software bidding process and procurement, whether or not the SSNIT ICT Department had the professional and or technical competence to determine whether or not SSNIT needed a replacement software.
He also wants the proposed forensic audit to look at “Whether or not SSNIT Executive Management and Legislative Board did their duties before approving of the ICT Department’s request for the new ICT software”.