The Bank of Ghana (BoG) has awarded a multi-billion-cedi contract to Sibton Switch Systems Limited to implement a retail payment system infrastructure in Ghana.
The contract, which is seen by many industry experts as unnecessary and shady, will see Sibton Switch Systems Limited – a company formed only in August 2015 – run a system to make banks, mobile money platforms and other payment systems interoperable.
Initial figure sighted by Daily Guide as the cost submitted by Sibton to the Bank of Ghana (BoG) for the implementation of the retail payment system was GH¢4,667,414,340.82.
What raises eyebrows is the fact that two other entities that bid for the same contract – Vas Intel Limited and Mericom Solutions Limited – submitted tender amounts and packages worth GH¢14,094,795.00 and GH¢5,465,396.06 respectively.
Vas Intel files for annulment
Minutes of a tender committee meeting dated Monday, July 04, 2016, capture the bids submitted by all the three interested companies.
The tender committee, chaired by Mr Innocent Asamoah, in its remarks after the evaluation of the tenders, concluded that all three were responsive and met their expectations and so awarded the contract to Sibton Switch Systems Limited.
This led Vas InteL Limited to write to the BoG to protest the award of the contract to Sibton Switch Systems Limited.
In its letter dated July 25, 2016, Vas Intel wrote that it was conceivably impracticable for the BoG to award a contract to Sibton within six business days after the opening of tenders on July 4, 2016.
According to the letter, “All procurement actions taken by the BoG pursuant to Act 663 must be done with a strict and uncompromising adherence to the principles of transparency and fairness so as to protect and preserve public property and interest, as well as the integrity of the laws governing public procurement within the territory of the Republic of Ghana.”
Telecom operators in the country are unhappy about moves by the Central Bank to impose on them a third-party company which will be intermediate in mobile money transactions across different networks.
Telecom operators outraged
The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications has bared its teeth at the Central Bank and condemned the move to impose Sibton Switch Systems Limited on the players in the industry.
In a letter dated January 9, 2017, the chamber argues that the move by the BoG and Sibton is not in alignment with international standards or benchmarks.
They also argue that the fees being charged by the switch are too high and have the potential to undermine the successes chalked by the industry.
The Telecoms Chamber, after meetings with banks, mobile money operators, and the Central Bank, warned that aside from the outrageous costs of the project, the scope was also not well defined and could run the industry into a state of chaos.
Case for GHIPSS
The Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Limited (GhIPSS) is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bank of Ghana.
It was incorporated in May 2007 with a mandate to implement and manage interoperable payment system infrastructure for banks and non-bank financial institutions in Ghana.
Industry leaders believe that the BoG should annul the deal with Sibton Switch Systems Limited and offer GhIPSS the needed leverage to continue integrating payment systems like they have successfully done over the past decade.