BoG Ȼ4.6 billion contract saga: The bank’s spokesperson unaware of Sibtons Switch ownership

The Bank of Ghana has mounted a spirited defence for a controversial Ȼ4.6 billion contract to a private company to operate a new retail payment system infrastructure.

But the Director of Communications at the Bank Bernard Otabil does not know the owners of Sibton Switch Systems Limited.

He stated however that the BoG, as the regulator of the financial sector, conducted enough due diligence before awarding the contract to Sibton Switch Systems Limited.

The award of the contract to Sibton has raised serious questions with critics raising issues about the cost, to which the contract was awarded and whether the company has the experience to able to implement the system effectively.

Out of three companies that bided to execute the policy Sibton Switch System is reported to have the highest cost for the implementation of the policy.

Whilst the tender amount for Sibton Switch was GH¢4,667,414,340.82 two other entities with bids 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.

Apart from the huge tender amount disparity, Sibton Switch System is also reported to be the company with the least experience.

It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sibton Communications incorporated in August 2015 to run a system to make banks, mobile money platforms and other payment systems interoperable.

With a project that is expected to provide a seamless, secured, interoperability of mobile money systems, critics believe a more experienced company with a proven track record of delivery was expected to have won the contract.

But speaking on the Super Morning Show, Monday, the Director of Communications at BoG 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.

“As a regulator you are no supposed to chase after the market. You are to lead the market. So in terms of establishing an effective and efficient payment system in your economy there are a number of issues that are to be taken into consideration. That is not only led on price. There are certain technical provisions. That is why in the tender process you want to technically evaluate the proposal that have been submitted to ensure that is a going to full proof, fit for purpose and to ensure the payment system is protected.

He said the Bank is only facilitating the process.

The award of the contract to Sibton Switch comes as a surprise to many, given that the telecommunication net works have been asked to put a system in place to ensure a smooth interoperability.

Some of the critics do not understand why Sibton was selected when indeed the companies have already invested monies to ensure an effective interoperability system but Bernard Otabil his outfit had a responsibility to select an effective and efficient payment system and they did just that.

When he was asked who owned Sibton Switch, he said: “I can never tell you who the owner of Sibton Switch really is. In honest truth, I don’t know. I have not done any shareholder evaluation to know who is behind it.”

Checks on the website of the company did not show names or faces of the management or ownership structure of the company except the services the company render.