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General News of Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Source: Graphic.com.gh

SSNIT OBS case: Supreme Court dismisses Ernest Thompson’s application

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, October 15, dismissed an application by a former Director-General of the Social Security and National insurance Trust (SSNIT), Ernest Thompson, praying the court to seek special leave to appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal in the SSNIT OBS case.

Thompson went to the Apex Court with the application after the Court of Appeal had declined to grant a request for the state to furnish accused persons in the SSNIT OBS scandal with further and better particulars with respect to charges levelled against them.

The law requires an applicant who intends to appeal to the Supreme Court on an interlocutory matter to seek special leave of the Supreme Court, hence the application.

But the court refused to grant the application, on the grounds that the applicant had not given the court enough grounds to warrant the grant of the application.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal will, on October 23, 2019, hear the substantive appeal on the applicant’s dissatisfaction with the scant particulars given in each count of the case.

The crux of the applicant’s case is that majority of the charges do not give him details of the charges.

According to the applicant, he was entitled to details of the charges because majority of the charges or counts do not contain further details.

Stay

The High Court, on June 11, 2019, stayed proceedings in the case in which Mr Thompson and four others have been accused of willfully causing financial loss to the state following an appeal against its earlier decision.

The prosecution was expected to call its first witness that day, but lawyers for three of the accused persons announced their decision to apply for stay of proceedings pending the outcome of the Court of Appeal’s decision.

The appeal is against the High Court’s decision not to drop the charges preferred against the ex-SSNIT boss and two others or in the alternative make an order directed at the Attorney General’s Department to provide them with details of the charges against them.

Dismissing the application, the presiding judge, Justice Anthony Kwofie, a Court of Appeal judge with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, said the charges levelled against the accused persons contained particulars necessary to give them reasonable information as to the nature of the charges preferred against them.

Not satisfied with the decision, their lawyers filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal challenging the decision of the High Court.

They subsequently filed another application seeking to stay the trial at the High Court until the ruling of the Court of Appeal.

The three applicants, Thompson, John Hagan Mensah, Information Technology Infrastructure Manager of SSNIT, and a private business woman, Juliet Hassana Krama, CEO of Perfect Business Solutions (PBS) Limited, all filed separate motions praying the court to stay its proceedings pending the determination of the appeal.

Defence Lawyers

The defence lawyers, in moving their separate applications, urged the court to stay its proceedings, as their clients would suffer substantial injustice if the trial continued while the appeal was pending.

They contended that should the appeal succeed, their clients stood a chance of the charges against them being dropped, and also they stood to suffer imminent danger of having their fundamental human rights and liberties irretrievably violated.

Opposition

Stella Ohene Appiah, a Senior State Attorney, who opposed the applications, argued that the actions of the accused persons were baseless because the matter had already been decided by both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

She stated that there was no compelling reason why the court should stay its proceedings for an exercise being carried out in futility.

After hearing the arguments, the judge dismissed the applications, saying the counsel for the three accused persons had not demonstrated any special circumstances to warrant a stay of the proceedings.

Trial

They have been accused of causing financial loss to the state in the award of a $72 million IT project – Operational Business Suite (OBS).

Caleb Kwaku Afaglo, a former General Manager of Management Information Systems at SSNIT, and Peter Hayibor, a former General Counsel of SSNIT, are the other accused persons.

They have been accused of inflating the contract sum of the OBS from $34,011,914.21 to $66,783,148.08 through what are termed variously as ‘change orders’ and ‘variations.’