SSNIT scandal: Lawyers condemn ‘media trial’ of Ernest Thompson

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The Lawyers for the former Director General of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), Mr. Ernest Thompson have phooey the recently held press conference by the current Director General, Dr. Ofori-Tenkorang as mischievous, reckless and spurious.

According to a statement issued by A. Tetteh Mensah of Baako Apem Chambers, Solicitor for Ernest Thompson, the lawyers said they find it strange the reason SSNIT management turned itself into spokespersons for EOCO and the office of the Attorney General to allegedly release the outcome of investigation, which was solely conducted by EOCO.

“Let us categorically state that EOCO was the investigating body and SSNIT has never investigated our client and therefore in no position to tell the media at the Press Conference the outcome of the investigations conducted by EOCO,” the statement reads.

It indicated that the conduct obviously underscores the whole mischief behind the Press Conference and the avowed unprecedented hatred for their client, especially as the use of such a criminal word like “Arrest” would obviously portray our client as a criminal.

The statement however describes the press conference as weapons persecution and victimization of their client in the media without the truth, evidence and facts surrounding this OBS project.

“It is to be noted that the management of SSNIT which claims to be the complainants in this matter continue to persecute our client in the print and electronic media with press conferences and releases at the least opportunity without any regard to the evidence and the facts adduced before the investigators at EOCO,” the statement noted.

It also condemns the persistent posture by the media coordinators of the press conference for not allowing entry of some media houses to cover the press conference as an infringement of their press freedom pertaining to state functions.

“We have realized that there is an orchestrated project by the management of SSNIT and some selected media houses and organizations aimed at whipping up negative public sentiments against our client and at the appropriate time we shall take the necessary steps to defend and uphold the hard earned reputation of our client that is deliberately being damaged,” the statement posited.

According to the statement, they are also constrained to point out, on behalf of their client, that at the said Press Conference, there was a deliberate attempt to not only read but also instruct the media present to report a falsehood i.e. our client and others “were arrested and cautioned”

“Please let those who are minded to go on this voyage of recklessness in pursuit of these defamatory statements against our client be advised accordingly,” the statement cautioned.
Read Statement Below:

IN RE: RECENT SSNIT PRESS CONFERENCE ON PWC REPORT AND MATTERS ARISING

We act as solicitors for and on behalf of Mr. Ernest Thompson, Esq. immediate past Director General of SSNIT. We have critically observed, examined, listened to and heard both from the print and electronic media landscape for almost a period of 15 months in respect of our client Mr. Ernest Thompson, the immediate past Director General of SSNIT, and wish to set the records straight for the benefit of the generality of Ghanaians, especially after the recent press conference in the PWC report.

Since the commencement of the investigations into the Operational BUSINESS SUITE (OBS) software by EOCO, which began on 06-04-2017 we as solicitors for Ernest Thompson, advised him to adopt the approach of a dignified silence as his response in order to enable EOCO to undertake its investigations unhindered. In the circumstances we cooperated fully with EOCO in furtherance of its statutory mandate…..” to monitor and investigate economic and organized crime and on the authority of the Attorney General prosecute those offences to recover the proceeds of crime and provide for related matters”

Indeed the last time we appeared before EOCO on the OBS issue was in October 2017, almost six (6) months ago. Our reliable information is that EOCO, in accordance with its procedure, had presented its report to the Attorney General’s Office for the necessary advice, which may be civil or criminal. Curiously we have a situation that, at a needless press conference, the SSNIT management turns itself into spokespersons for EOCO and the office of the Attorney General to allegedly release the outcome of investigations, which was solely conducted by EOCO.

At the said Press Conference, the SSNIT team even refused entry to some media houses, amidst protest, and only allowed its own selected and preferred media houses and personality to enter the room.

It is thus obvious and crystal clear that the SSNIT management has decided to do politics and in the process has adopted as its weapons persecution and victimization of our client and ignored the truth, evidence and facts surrounding this OBS project. They were not even prepared to be asked pertinent questions from media men they considered unfriendly to their cause, by preventing some of them entry.

It is to be noted that the management of SSNIT which claims to be the complainants in this matter continue to persecute our client in the print and electronic media with press conferences and releases at the least opportunity without any regard to the evidence and the facts adduced before the investigators at EOCO.

The usual mantra of the management led by the Director General has been the spurious allegation intended to deceive the public that the original contract price of $34 million escalated to $72 million without explaining how or what brought about the price escalation, which should actually be the crux of the matter.

We wish therefore to provide to the unsuspecting public just two instances that occasioned or led to the price escalation which had nothing to do with criminality.

In the original scoping for the contract requirement that put the contract sum at $34 million, provision was made for only 400.000 cards. Meanwhile SSNIT has a contributor population of over 3 million.

Again the scoping provided for only five (5)kiosks (the machines that look like the ATM machines of the banks) whereas SSNIT has about 54 branch offices throughout the country each needed to be provided with the kiosks to enable the contributors to access any information required.

From the above therefore the purchases for additional cards of over 2 million and 50 kiosks in furtherance of the effective management of the project would justifiably be in the right direction which would lead also to contract price escalation automatically.

Making the rounds in recent days has also been the PriceWaterHouse alleged audit report that has emerged in a so called investigation claiming to indict our client in the OBS software.

Our client is unaware of any investigation or audit undertaken by Price Water House. We say this on authority because it would seem strange to us that an audit or investigations could be conducted over a period of several months and a report released without ANY HEARING given to our client by PWC to state his side of the case. PWC never met our client before finalizing its report.

It is one of the cardinal principles of law that no one can be condemned without a hearing and no matter the scope of an investigation and notwithstanding any other investigations being conducted by different bodies, our client and other persons who may be affected by the outcome of an audit must be given a hearing on the issue by the Auditors.

Indeed we have just had wind of some aspects of the PWC report and it is very obvious to us that if our client, the vendors, the Project Manager and the previous General Managers in charge of the MIS division had all been given hearing by PWC, some of the misconceptions and so called findings of the PWC report in the media would have been totally different. We have also keenly noticed that at the end of the PWC report one of its major recommendations on the OBS was that, “SSNIT should further investigate the issues identified in this report and seek legal advice……” Indeed this OBS issue also involves the interpretation of the contract signed by SSNIT and the vendors, which took place BEFORE our client was appointed as the Director General.

It is thus obvious that the PWC report itself anticipates some more investigations to be done, may be and presumably because key persons involved in this project had not been heard on the issues raised. We have realized that there is an orchestrated project by the management of SSNIT and some selected media houses and organizations aimed at whipping up negative public sentiments against our client and at the appropriate time we shall take the necessary steps to defend and uphold the hard earned reputation of our client that is deliberately being damaged.

We are also constrained to point out, on behalf of our client, that at the said Press Conference, there was a deliberate attempt to not only read but also instruct the media present to report a falsehood i.e. our client and others “were arrested and cautioned”.

Let us categorically state that EOCO was the investigating body and SSNIT has never investigated our client and therefore in no position to tell the media at the Press Conference the outcome of the investigations conducted by EOCO.

This above conduct obviously underscores the whole mischief behind the Press Conference and the avowed unprecedented hatred for our client, especially as the use of such a criminal word like “Arrest” would obviously portray our client as a criminal. Even though we are of the firm belief that our client whilst in public office did not criminally misconduct himself, we still assure the public that we shall cooperate fully with all credible state institutions handling this matter.

Please let those who are minded to go on this voyage of recklessness in pursuit of these defamatory statements against our client be advised accordingly.

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