A former Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), Mr Ernest Thompson, and four others accused of causing financial loss of $14.8million to the state are currently free from the charges levelled against them.
In a unanimous decision, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court, presided over by Justice Yaw Apau, on Wednesday [March 17, 2021] held that the Attorney-General (A-G) failed to provide sufficient particulars of offence to the charges levelled against the five individuals.
According to the court, the failure by the A-G to provide sufficient particulars meant the charges did not meet the constitutional requirement of fair trial as stipulated by Article 19(2) of the 1992 Constitution, reports Graphic Online’s Justice Agbenorsi who was in the courtroom for the judgment.
The court delivered the ruling Wednesday after it dismissed an appeal by the A-G challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal which had held that the particulars were not sufficient.
The former SSNIT boss, including Mr John Hagan Mensah, a former Information Technology (IT) Manager at SSNIT; Ms Juliet Hassana Kramer, the Chief Executive Officer of Perfect Business Systems (PBS); Mr Caleb Kwaku Afaglo, a former Head of Management Information Systems (MIS) at SSNIT; and Mr Peter Hayibor, the lawyer for SSNIT, were in July 2018 charged with willfully causing financial loss to the state, conspiracy to commit crime, defrauding by false pretense in contravention of the public procurement act and authoring of forged documents They pleaded not guilty to the charges at the High Court.
The prosecution, on the other hand, has insisted that the particulars of the offences contain adequate information, and argue that the contention of Thompson when allowed to stand, will amount to prosecution providing evidence in the particulars of offence.
The offences levelled against Thompson and the other accused persons include willfully causing financial loss to the state, conspiracy to commit crime, defrauding by false pretence in contravention of the public procurement act and authoring of forged documents.
The former SSNIT boss first filed his application before the trial court, presided over by Justice Henry A. Kwofie, a Justice of the Court of Appeal sitting as a High Court judge, but it was dismissed on April 19, 2019.
Dissatisfied with the decision, Thompson appealed to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that Justice Kwofie committed an error of law and also erred by dismissing his application.
On April 3, 2020, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal in a 2-1 majority decision upheld Thompson’s appeal and held that, indeed, the particulars of offences on the charge sheet were not sufficient.
It accordingly directed the prosecution to “provide reasonable information to enable the appellant (Mr Thompson) prepare adequately for his defence”.
The Attorney-General decided to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision at the Supreme Court.
Supreme court panel
The five-member panel of the apex court that sat on the case are Justice Yaw Appau as chair, with Justices Agnes M.A. Dordzie, Avril Lovelace-Johnson, Gertrude Torkonoo and Issifu Omoro Tanko Amadu.
Alleged OBS scandal
In June 2010, SSNIT initiated the $34 million OBS project to use Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to revamp its operations to enable it to provide a state-of-the-art pension administration system in the country.
It is the case of the prosecution that between September 2013 and September 2016 the five accused persons engaged in various illegalities that caused financial loss to the state in relation to the said project.
The contract sum, the prosecution said, also ballooned from $34 million to over $66 million, even though the OBS system failed to perform efficiently as the project contract had envisaged.
Source: Daily Mail Gh with additional files from Graphic, Citinewsroom