Feature Article of Tuesday, 9 December 2003
Columnist: Mensah, Kofi
It is fair to say that, President Kufuor's NPP was given the mandate in 2000 to wipe corruption out from the Ghanaian system, among others. President Kufuor has heeded to this call and his government's pursuit of those who stole from Ghana during the 20 Years Rawlings' PNDC/NDC ruled Ghana and the imprisonment of one of his own ministers for theft, are clear testimonies of his government's fight against corruption.
For President Kufuor to succeed in the anti-corruption fight, he should also monitor activities of government officials who deal with multinational corporations who want to or are doing business in Ghana. Corruption among African politicians is not always from within; sometimes, multinational corporations also corrupt politicians. One foreign company who has the track record in corrupting government officials in Africa is SAGEM, a French company involved in Communications, Defense and Security.
Why single out SAGEM? SAGEM is among the companies bidding for the National Identity Card project. As a Ghanaian, I hope whomever wins the bid would not only possess the best technology but present the most cost effective financial proposal as well. However, with SAGEM among those competing for the project, I am afraid, winning will rather be based on who pays the most in bribes to government officials, but not on the attributes I have mentioned above. From reliable sources close to the National ID Card Project, it appears, SAGEM has been chosen as the front-runner to win the bid because I strongly believe they have done or promised to do what they do best - bribe their way to the top. The same sources have indicated that: Ghana government officials in charge of the project have not visited SAGEM to inspect their site to determine whether they have the expertise and technology to do the job. Is due diligence important in the award of contracts in G! hana? And why the apparent rush to award the contract to SAGEM? Is this a testimony of the perceived arrogance of the NPP?
SAGEM is both corrupt and incompetent. Wherever they have won contracts, they have left tracks of incompetence and corruption. In Nigeria for example, SAGEM paid millions of dollars in bribes to win a $214 million National Identity Card contract. As I write this article, corrupt Nigerian government officials are indicted for accepting bribes from SAGEM. A statement by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission of Nigeria said "Labour minister Hussain Akwanga and former internal affairs ministers Sunday Afolabi and Mahmud Shatta were among seven people accused of taking bribes in the National ID Card Project. It was however discovered that SAGEM agents in Nigeria, including the regional area manager for identification systems, Jean Pierre Delarue, a Frenchman and Niyi Adelagun, organised and executed a scheme through which bribes were di! stributed to these top government officials". Please go to this website for the full story: http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0,,2-11-1447_1454940,00.html
This story first appeared in Gye Nyame Concord several months ago yet, government officials charged with managing the bidding process don't seem to care about this corrupt practices of SAGEM: Please visit this site for the full story: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=37909
In terms of inefficiency, these are the track record of SAGEM: ? In Germany, a system created by SAGEM to pick fingerprints of criminals could not do so t! hough the fingerprints were in national crime database. ? In South Africa, there were several system rejections. ? In Malaysia, SAGEM's incompetence showed in technical problems, and mixing up identities, fingerprints and personal data. ? In Honduras, South America, criminals were able to duplicate identity cards SAGEM made for Hondurans.
In the name of "Zero Tolerance" for corruption, I am appealing to President Kufuor; Chief of Staff Kwadwo Mpiani; Ministers Hon. Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom and Hon. Osafo-Maafo, the ministers in charge of the project; Stephen Asamoah Boateng, a government official who has been giving press statements on the project; and other government officials and civil servants charged with the National ID Card project to inject due diligence and follow laid down policies and procedures before they award the contract to the whomever presents the best bid. Certainly, SAGEM, by their own corrupt practices and track record, is not the best qualif! ied for the project.
Awarding the contract to a company that is facing trial for National ID Card related corruption in Nigeria will definitely cast doubt on the integrity and transparency of the NPP government. And I must add, as SAGEM did in Nigeria, they will do the same to win the contract in Ghana, that is bribing government officials because that is their hallmark.
Mr. President, image in politics is very important and your administration has already walked the crooked path of light and shadow. Your government should do what you preach - "Zero Tolerance" for Corruption. And remember, parliamentary and presidential elections are one year away and Ghanaians will judge you on your government's grade on the anti-corruption war, among others.