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Opinions of Monday, 21 May 2018

Columnist: Andrews Inkoom

NDC’s policy choice would have led to higher cost of interoperability project

It has emerged that a deliberate policy choice by the erstwhile Mahama administration to privatize the operation of an interoperability platform for Ghana is what nearly cost the Ghanaian taxpayer some GHC4.6 billion.

A debate on Joy FM’s Saturday morning news analysis program NEWSFILE between Deputy Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah and NDC MP for Bolga Central Isaac Adongo revealed that while the Kufuor Administration empowered the Ghana Inter-Bank Payment System (GHIPS) in 2007 to serve as a national payment platform to operate and integrate all payment platforms in Ghana’s economy, the Mahama administration chose to alter the policy decision and appointed private company SIBTON switch to take over the work of the national platform and rake in outrageous private profits for providing the services.

Outlining the history and mandate of GHIPS, Mr Nkrumah said: “After GHIPS was established it has rolled out various platforms and integrated them already. It started with E-zwitch, and then the national payment engine (Instant Pay), and then the ACH platform and Direct debit and credit platforms. GHIPS then moved on to develop the electronic payment platforms that enables ATMS, e-commerce transactions as well.

“However, when Mobile money required intra-operability and inter-operability, the Mahama administration opted to outsource that to the private sector. In addition to that, the private sector company SIBTON was further empowered to literally duplicate what GHIPS was already doing. No wonder they took advantage of that to charge us 4.6 Billion cedis. If the Policy had not been altered and GHIPS had been allowed to do its work as is being done today, we realize the same job can be done for a paltry 18 Million USD.”

In responding, Mr Adongo of the NDC admitted that every government has the right to make policy choices and that it was within the Mahama administration’s right to alter the Policy infrastructure and outsource the project to SIBTON switch. He further contended that the 4.6 Billion was not a cost of the project but rather cash-flows from the project. “The amount in question is cashflows from the project. If anyone worth his salt in Finance wants to know the cost of the project, he ought to do an NPV analysis and compare same to the current 18 Million cedis price.”



Even when corrected by Mr Nkrumah that the 4.6 Billion is cost and at the same time a minimal recoup, Mr Adongo insisted that the Deputy Information Minister was misreading the contract.

The NDC had initially tried to argue that the scope of the two projects were different. But after Mr. Nkrumah proved that the scopes were not different other Panelists on the show agreed that if the scopes were the same, then the SIBTON deal was outrageous.

Background

Under the leadership of President Akufo-Addo, the Bank of Ghana abrogated the SIBTON contract in 2017 and engaged the national payment platform GHIPS to develop an inter-operability platform for mobile money and link it to the national payment platform. GHIPS has successfully executed the transaction for 4.5 Million USD (18 Million Cedis) saving the Ghanaian over 900 Million cedis. The new platform which is recording over 4,000 transactions daily within its first week, is expected to improve financial inclusion in the country and forms part of efforts to develop a cash-lite economy and modernize the economy through technology.