The Attorney-General’s Department (AG) has released the documents it intends to use to prosecute the five persons accused of causing financial loss of more than $14.8 million (about GH¢67 million) to the state in the controversial SSNIT Operational Business Suite (OBS) project.
The move by the A-G is in compliance with a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court on June 7, 2018 that made pre-trial disclosures a must in all criminal cases to enable accused persons to effectively defend themselves.
With this disclosure, the five accused persons — Ernest Thompson, a former Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT); John Hagan Mensah, a former Information Technology (IT) Manager at SSNIT; Juliet Hassana Kramer, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Perfect Business Systems (PBS); Caleb Kwaku Afaglo, a former Head of Management Information Systems (MIS) at SSNIT, and Peter Hayibor, the lawyer for SSNIT — would get access to the prosecution documents.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, informed the Accra High Court that the A-G filed the documents at the court’s registry on September 24, 2018 and had, accordingly, served the accused persons.
She explained that the A-G had made available a 127-page document and six flash drives containing other documents to the five accused persons and the presiding judge.
“We have not been served’’
In response, counsel for the five accused persons said they were yet to be served with the documents and prayed the court to give them more time to study them when they were finally served.
Counsel for Kramer, Mr Thaddeus Sory, argued that in the interest of fairness and justice, he needed adequate time to analyse the documents and properly prepare for the case.
“Adequate time is crucial. Let us not make mockery of the system,” he said.
Reacting to the concerns of counsel, the DPP proposed to the court to give the lawyers six weeks to study the documents.
“It is not as if all the documents will be tendered at once. Six weeks is enough time for them to examine what had been tendered,” she said.
The presiding judge, Mr Justice Henry Kwofi, a justice of the Court of Appeal with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, however, granted the defence counsel eight weeks to examine the prosecution’s documents.
He also directed the A-G to ensure that lawyers for the five accused persons were served with the disclosures.
Hearing continues on December 14, 2018.
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.
It is the case of the A-G 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 A-G argued, also ballooned from $34 million to over $66 million, even though the OBS system failed to perform efficiently as the project contract had envisaged.
The five have been slapped with 29 different charges.
All of them have been charged with various counts of conspiracy to wilfully cause financial loss to the state and wilfully causing financial loss to the state.
The accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the charges and are on self-recognisance bail.