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Opinions of Monday, 4 June 2018

Columnist: Koku Mawuli Nanegbe

Reasons why NIA’s $1.22billion project requires an independent, reliable audit

The National Identification Authority [NIA] in an attempt to assuage the public outrage emanating from the first expose’ on the $1.22billion Ghana Card cost, has quickly thrown into the public domain [favorable] portions of the 9-page document titled “Synopsis of National ID System Project, May 2018,” minus some key aspects including the Project Whole Life Cost [WLC] Summary.

The concealment attempt of portions of the document itself makes the request for an independent, reliable Value-for-Money Audit very important. While at that, we should be gnawing at the all-important question as to why GoG/NIA at the neglect of the World Bank’s entire e-TRANSFORM PROJECT offer of $97million [including a $29million for a robust National identification system] opted for a $1.22billion project? Is this the protection of the public purse that was promised?

First of all, the NIA in aspects of the document released claim Public Procurement Authority [PPA], Public Investments Division [PIV] of Ministry of Finance, Economic Management Team, Cabinet etc have all perused the Ghana Card project and approved it.

Dear reader, you recall Minister for Special Developments, Hawa Koomson’s unprecedented Gh800,000 website cost which went undetected at the perusal stages of the above-named offices and had to take Minority in Parliament to detect? Even though Hon Kyei Mensah Bonsu waded in, claiming the cost is Gh80,000 and that the addition of an extra zero was a mistake, is it not alarming to have the NIA tell us the Ghana Card deal went through same “porous systems” for due diligence without an issue?

Of all the offices said to have carried out the due diligence, PPA appears to be the worse in terms of integrity; when its political CEO disregarded key requirement for sole source and limited tender contracts and granted Ken Agyapong’s wife such contracts and sought to justify same in the media. This is aside churning out of propaganda-laced procurement statistics which the President gleefully relied on in some of his public pronouncements, a development which procurement experts criticized. How will that one have faith in the work of all those offices?

Now to the aspects of the document not released: captured under Impact on State Coffers on page 5 of the NIA document, it says “IMS [the Company undertaking the project] and NIA will require $169 million and $124 million respectively to COMMENCE.” This is in reference to NIA’s $1.22billion contract.

Also, on Card Production and Operations on page 4, “The combined cost of Card Production and Operations cost to account for almost 73% of total cost. A total of 88.9million cards will be issued over 15 years, made up of 52.2million smartcards (at $5.40 per card) and 36.7million two-dimensional [2D] barcode cards (at $1.50 per card). The average cost of a card is, therefore, $3.45 per card for this exercise.”

Computing the above figures, 88.9million x $3.45 = $307million. But the total amount captured for Card Production under the WLC Summary at page 8 of the same document is $413,395,967million, which is about $100million in excess of the $307million. Why so?

Again, under Support and Maintenance of the WLC Summary, $118,142,726million had been inserted as against what is in page 5, that “Maintenance and Support of the system are also estimated at $18.1million, consistent with international benchmarks.” The difference is also about $100million. Not curious? Typographical error? What happened to the over $42,000 in there? Why approximate for less?

The other questions, however, have to do with financial allocations for WLC components such as Periodic Upgrades, $59million and Support and Maintenance, $118million. ICT experts say there is absolutely no need for instance for periodic upgrades of a standard system designed to capture 10 fingerprints, Iris, storing it on 148k smart card, let alone the huge cash allocation.

What support and maintenance at $118million? One of them queried, saying the allocations are a scam.
Under operations, which include recruitment/training, mass registration exercise including Ghanaians abroad, establishment of offices, allowances etc, NIA had allocated over $461 million. Only a good audit can help establish it.

Now, unimaginably, the system we have at NIA has not undergone Operation Acceptance Test [OAT] to access its functionality but we are so busy trying to pilot it. It is as simple as an employer expecting a job seeker to deliver on a particular job without first checking his capacity.

Expected or not, Dr Bawumia whose ICT competence seemed limited to only communicating NIA registration dates has a pitiable case, particularly that all 5 given dates have failed. A smart, competent VEEP after the 2nd failure would have sought a third opinion before attempting another announcement.

I am reliably told the NIA had printed one million cards including President Akufo Addo’s, which are a waste and a cost to the tax payer due to non-considerations for the ECOWAS protocol for a common and standard identity card to which Ghana is a signatory.

Per the calculations, 1million cards x $3.45 = $3.45million; financial loss to the state, all of that raising competence and impropriety matters for which Prof Ken Attafuah should have resigned or be sacked.

That brings to mind the damning claims of Kennedy Agyapong against Prof Attafuah over the same project. The MP who was on Adom TV said “I am a businessman, I travel all over the place and when I heard the amount for the [Ghana Card] deal is $1.2 billion, I knew they had done the country in. A poor country like Ghana,” adding that Prof Ken Attafuah received lands as bribe from the owner of the company that won the $1.2 billion contract.

For me, these issues cannot be swept under the carpet. They are germane matters for which we need a trustable but independent institution to undertake this Value-for-Money-Audit. But more importantly, if Prof Ken Attafuah is abandoning the $1.2 billion contract after being “caught for attempted stealing,” he can do better with an apology to the people.

While at that, our President who only appears to be interested in paying lips service to his commitment to fight corruption should for once demonstrate it. His silence on this matter is as deafening as his inaction on the countless corruption, fraud, plain thievery cases that rocked his only 18 months old government.

Is the Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu in this country? He should be interested in this case. Sure!

Well, perhaps a coincidence, that as I punch away at the keypads of my laptop the last words of this piece at 2am, blurring from speakers in a far distance are these words of Bob Marley’s “Babylon System”

Deceiving the people continually, yea-ea!
Me say them graduatin' thieves and murderers;
Look out now: they suckin' the blood of the sufferers (sufferers).
Yea-ea-ea! (Sufferers)
Tell the children the truth;
Tell the children the truth…