West Blue Deal In Limbo
The presidency is coming under a lot of fire for a potential breach of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663), as the government moves to award a juicy multi-million dollar contract to West Blue.
The company is supposed to provide a national Single Window implementation and take over the functions of the Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) from 1st September, 2015.
Freight forwarders and other allied associations are kicking against the contract awarded to West Blue Consulting to implement the Single Window platform.
The aggrieved institutions have called on the government to, as a matter of urgency, suspend the project before the country is plagued into yet another judgement debt.
They have threatened a court action if the government does not rescind the West Blue decision, warning against experimenting what had not been successful in Nigeria where the company had operated.
A leaked letter from the Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah, to the Finance Minister, Seth Terpker, is purported to award the contract to West Blue – a company owned by Valentina Mintah, the daughter of NDC bigwig, the late Squadron Leader Clend Sowu, former MP for Anlo. The process is said not to have gone through a competitive tender, and has been questioned by lawyers as being in total breach of the law.
The president, through a letter written by his Chief of Staff on May 12, 2015, instructed the minister of finance to transfer the duties of all five DICs operating in Ghana to West Blue Ghana Limited.
In the letter, President Mahama, after purportedly awarding the contract to West Blue, went on to direct his finance minister to seek to ‘regularise’ it.
‘You should take the necessary steps to secure the Public Procurement’s approval in order to engage West Blue on Single Source Basis. Your action would be much appreciated,’ the letter instructed.
Kweku Baako Jnr, editor-in-chief of the New Crusading Guide, who asked for the deal to be ‘suspended,’ also hinted on Joy FM’s ‘Newsfile’ programme last Saturday that there was a lot at stake on the deal because of the amount of money involved.
The president’s apparent personal involvement in it has also raised major eyebrows.
West Blue is expected to earn between 0.5-1% of the value of all dutiable, imported goods. The country imports between $6 and $11 billion worth of goods annually.
Industry insiders estimate that the value of the Single Window contract to the company could fetch Valentina Mintah between $200 and $300 million.
In a surprising move this month, the government announced to the five DICs that their five-year separate contracts, which end on 31st August, 2015, would not be renewed.
The five companies are Gateway Services Ltd, Ghana Link, BIVAC, Webb Fontaine and Inspection & Control Services
The total value of the contracts that the five DICs have with the Government of Ghana is worth some $60 million annually or up to one per cent of the value of inspected and classified imported goods at the nation’s ports.
DAILY GUIDE has learnt that the owners and sponsors of West Blue are piling up pressure for the contract to be signed by mid-week.
Our checks also show that some stakeholders, including freight forwarders, insist the deal is not good for the country.
They finger the president and a deputy minister of finance, Mona Quartey, as the main sponsors of the deal.
On ‘Newsfile’, three legal practitioners, including the host, Samson Ayenini, argued that the letter from the presidency, if acted upon, could be in breach of the law.
The law states in clear terms, the circumstances under which sole sourcing can be done and that West Blue does not fall under any such category since there are existing companies doing the same jobs, making it look more like job for the ‘boys or girls.’
The letter to the finance minister, with ref No. SCR1A.14124, directing the takeover by West Blue reads in part, ‘In pursuant to H.E. the President’s decision, you are directed to formally engage West Blue Ghana Limited to undertake the following services:
a) Software implementation and support activities to GRA and related agencies for takeover of the functions of the DICs on 1st September, 2015.
b) Conduct needs/GAP Analysis for the implementation of the National Single Window and
c) Implement the National Single Window Blue Print following the needs/GAP Analysis.’
Chairman of the Concerned Freight Forwarders and Traders’ Forum, Denis Amfo Sefah, told journalists in Tema that members are happy with the existing system and wondered why a new company is being invited to take over the functions of the five companies.
The chairman reminded the government about the exclusive right granted by Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to GCNet for the same job.
‘Indeed following the strides that GCNet has taken towards the implementation of the Single Window, Ghana was one of the first countries to be listed by the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation as having deployed a Single Window platform.
‘From the forgone, we wish to appeal to His Excellency President John Dramani Mahama to, as a matter of urgency, suspend the deployment of the Single Window by West Blue to prevent the shame of the Nigeria experience and also prevent the payment of any future judgement debt,’ he stated.
West Blue Consulting, DAILY GUIDE learnt, has constituted a risk management committee to formally kick off the implementation of the National Single Window project.
The risk management committee on May 26, 2015, according to a document signed by Valentina Mintah and tilted ‘Constitution of Risk Management Committee’, sighted by DAILY GUIDE, shows how a DIC transition solution – a team formed by West Blue – was presented to the Ghana Revenue Authority at the GRA boardroom to begin the implementation.
The meeting was held and chaired by Customs Deputy Commissioner in-charge of operation, with a secretary from the West Blue management team.
From Vincent Kubi, Tema
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