Doubts raised over ?4.6bn BoG contract to allow 'across network' money transfer
There is brewing discontent over ?4.6bn plan spearheaded by the Bank of Ghana to create one-stop shop for all electronic payments across different financial and non-financial institutions.
For the layman, it means customers can transfer their monies from say Tigo to Airtel money or from E-Zwich to mobile money.
But for the Bank of Ghana, this is to be known as the Ghana Retail Payment System (GPRS).
After three companies bid for the contract, an offer to do this at ?4.6bn from Sibton Switch convinced the central bank against two other bid - GHC5m and GHC14m were not considered good enough.
But business journalist Richard Nii Abbey who broke the story says there are many questions surrounding the contract sum and the eventual winner of the contract.
Questions over the contract
According to the central bank, its "new platform" - the Ghana Retail Payment Systems - run by Sibton Switch Services Limited is to "among other things serve as a single window for all e-payment transactions....to increase penetration and enhancing payment delivery channels".
But this platform is not exactly new. There is the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Limited (GhIPSS) which is also aiming to "implement and manage interoperable payment system infrastructures for banks and non bank financial institutions in Ghana. ."
Essentially, these two Bank of Ghana creations want to do the same thing.
According to the journalist, GhIPSS already has a headstart doing this work since 2007. Its new rival, Sibton Switch Services Limited, is only 14 months old.
The Business and Financial Times journalist says GhIPSS faced a difficult time getting the banks to co-operate in the introduction of e-zwich cards. Now all it needs to do is to add telcos to the system and the work which GPRS wants to do will be completed.
He suspects this GPRS will suffer even greater non-cooperation from banks which are unhappy they are being dragged into another program with very little consultations.
Questions over the new contractor
The ownership structure of Sibton Switch Services Limited is not immediately known. Even the Director of Communications at BoG Bernard Otabil does not know who owns the company.
SSSL says it was heavily involved in the financial services sector in The Gambia using Unique Solutions – Gambia. Unique Solutions -Gambia is linked to Rlg Ghana, fuelling suggestions, SSSL could be a front for Rlg.
For a 14 months old company to be given a contract to handle the privacy of numerous electronic financial transactions, raises concerns for industry players.
The contract is for 25 years and will entail huge commissions to Sibton Switch Services Limited.
The Director of Communications at BoG Bernard Otabil insists due diligence was done.
He said the Bank in deciding who won the contract went beyond the tender amounts proposed by the companies and did an evaluation of the technical services and competencies of companies.
Questions over the 'need' to spend¢4.6bn
The difference between the second highest bidder, Vals Intel Ltd and the winner, Sibton Switch is over three billion cedis..
Vals Intel Limited quoted GH¢14, 094,795 and Mericom Solutions Limited quoted GH¢ 5,465,396.
An independent third-party solutions provider, Wallet-to-Wallet, Kofi Owusu Nhyira has raised questions about value-for-money. The multi-billion cedi contract to do the work which others are already doing is way too much for him, he suggested.
"We can roll out this application for nothing", he told Joy FM Super Morning Show Tuesday.
Last Monday on the same show, Director of Communications at the Central Bank, Bernard Otabil, pointed out that "cash is a fact but profit is an opinion".