$45m judgement debt against NLA looms

Ghanaians may be paying $45 million judge­ment debt sometime this year as a result of contrac­tual disagreement between the National Lottery Authority (NLA) and SIM­NET, an IT infrastructure company.

The two parties are locked up in a legal tussle over the disagreement and some of the faces behind SIMNET are people in key positions of the current administration, raising the issue of conflict of interest.

This comes on the heels of the payment of a debt of GHȻ30 million for delayed payment of invoices with interest to SIMNET, ordered earlier by a court.

Included in this amount is another GHȻ2 million paid to SIMNET as legal fee for its lawyers.

NLA had again been ordered by an Accra High Court to pay another judge­ment debt in a second lawsuit filed by SIMNET as damages caused by the NLA for engaging the serv­ices of a French company, Ingenico, to render the same services it had contracted SIMNET to deliver.

SIMNET was contracted to provide technical servic­es initially to the Depart­ment of National Lotteries (DNL), which metamor­phosed into the NLA among other things, to sup­port the seamless delivery of processes required for marketing of lottery products.

The contract included the setting up of IT infrastructure with systems to sell lottery tickets, perform draws, procure terminals for the retailers and market the products introduced.

It was expected that the company would automate the draw and also import terminals for quick penetration of the market so as to minimize the impact of ‘banker to banker’ operations nationwide.

However, due to delays in the rollout of the terminals on the part of SIMNET, the NLA board of directors sometime in 2007 decided to implement the automation programme and imported 10,000 terminals for distri­bution to retailers, Ingenico of France, after winning the contract so as to shut down the manual system.

Meanwhile, SIMNET continued to provide the technical services to NLA under a new board appoint­ed by late President Mills chaired by Dr Scali Agbozo.

The matter has been in and out of court after audits by reputable auditing firms leading to a possibly huge judgement debt of $45 mil­lion.

Agbozo speaks 
However, speaking on Citi FM on Monday the former board chairman Dr Agbozo, insisted that the SIMNET contract was not terminated.

He said when he took over in 2009, NLA was sup­posed to complete an automation of the lottery system with the aim of halt­ing the lapses in the system.

He is quoted as having stated, “Before we got there, there had been various cor­respondences between NLA and SIMNET to bring more portable point of sale termi­nals for the lotto business,” adding that “NLA, before our tenure, had already gone to PPA to secure approval for the purchase of 2,000 points of sales termi­nals for the lotto business.”

Dr Agbozo said they later increased the number of terminals to 10,000 “because we needed to cover the whole country.”

“We actually corre­sponded with them [SIM­NET] on several occasions to bring in more terminals and we informed them that we were ready to go and purchase terminals… we didn’t hear from them so we acted as such,” he claimed.

No comments 
When contacted, Mona Helen Quartey, a Deputy Minister of Finance in- charge of Revenue Agen­cies, including NLA, and who is believed to be chair­person of SIMNET, declined comments on the issue except to admit that she is the chairperson of SIMNET.

Currently, there seems to be disquiet in govern­ment circles with a case of conflict of interest being raised against the deputy minister.

Though he had earlier agreed on an interview with DAILY GUIDE, attempts for a one-on-one interview with Brigadier-General Ahiaglo, Director of NLA, failed.

As at press time, efforts to reach him or the head of legal department failed as several calls put through their respective mobile phones were not answered.

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