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Ernest Thompson ‘fights’ prosecutors for more documents

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
Lawyers for Ernest Thompson, a former Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT)
Lawyers for Ernest Thompson, a former Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT)

Lawyers for Ernest Thompson, a former Director-General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) who is standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss of more than $14.8 million to the state, are asking for all the documents they demanded from the prosecution.

In compliance with an order by the Accra High Court on December 14, 2018, the prosecution released about 95 out of the 111 documents demanded by the defence, but at yesterday’s hearing, lead counsel for Thompson, Mr Samuel Cudjoe, demanded for all the documents to aid the defence of his client.

The request by Mr Cudjoe led to a ‘clash’ between him and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa.

While Mr Cudjoe insisted that the rest of the documents were in the possession of SSNIT and should be provided, the DPP maintained that SSNIT had provided all documents in its possession that were demanded by the defence.

Accused persons

Thompson and four others — John Hagan Mensah, a former IT Manager at SSNIT; Juliet Hassana Kramer, the 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 — are standing trial over the SSNIT Operational Business Suite (OBS) project which had been described by the Attorney-General (A-G) as a dysfunctional software.

All the accused have pleaded not guilty to 29 charges, including wilfully causing financial loss to the state, defrauding by false pretence, contravening the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) and conspiracy.

They are on self-recognisance bail.    

Demand for more documents  

On October 22, 2018, Mrs Obuobisa released the about 127 documents that the prosecution would use to conduct its case to the defence counsel.

The move by the DPP was in compliance with a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court on June 7, 2018 which made pre-trial disclosures a must in all criminal cases to enable accused persons to effectively defend themselves.

 Mr Cudjoe replied that although the prosecution had provided documents for the defence, certain essential documents had not been provided.
 
He, therefore, moved an application, which was granted by the court, for the prosecution to release 111 additional documents.

Clash over documents

At yesterday’s hearing, the DPP informed the court that the prosecution had complied with the court’s order and “substantially” supplied the defence with the documents that it demanded.

She, however, explained that SSNIT had indicated that some of the documents requested by the defence were not in its possession.

In his response, Mr Cudjoe said it would be absurd for SSNIT to claim that some of the documents were not in its possession.

According to him, documents such as letters written by the current Director-General of SSNIT in 2017 about the OBS project and minutes from a steering committee meeting on the OBS project were not provided by SSNIT.

“The documents are with SSNIT. It is crucial that the prosecution brings them,” he submitted.

Mrs Obuobisa responded that SSNIT could not provide documents that were not in its possession.

“SSNIT cannot bring what it does not have,” she argued.

After the arguments, the presiding judge, Mr Justice Henry Kwofie, directed the two sides to meet and resolve the matter.

Hearing continues on March 22, 2019.

Prosecution’s case

In June 2010, SSNIT initiated a $34-million OBS project to use information and communications technology (ICT) to revamp its operations to enable it to provide a modern 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.

on the OBS project were not provided by SSNIT.

“The documents are with SSNIT. It is crucial that the prosecution brings them,” he submitted.

Mrs Obuobisa responded that SSNIT could not provide documents that were not in its possession.

“SSNIT cannot bring what it does not have,” she argued.

After the arguments, the presiding judge, Mr Justice Henry Kwofie, directed the two sides to meet and resolve the matte.

Hearing continues on March 22, 2019.

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