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General News Tue, 20 Aug 2013

DVLA stops electronic payment project

..after Gov’t has sunk over GH¢2.7 million

The massive corruption engulfing the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) continues thanks to the stalling of the electronic payment system that will plug the loopholes that officials at the Authority manipulate to loot millions of Ghana cedis that should be credited to the state account as revenue. If the fool-proof automation is fully operational, all the loopholes will be sealed and not even one Ghana pesewa can be stolen by the officials at the DVLA who collude to siphon public money. Painstaking and wide-ranging investigations by Public Agenda reveal that after government has expended over GHC2.7 million on the automation of the operations of the DVLA since the project started in 2004, the project has been completed but the DVLA, for unexplained reasons, has not yet launched it though a brochure was produced for the inauguration. Documents obtained by this paper indicate that the DVLA bought the servers for US$1.2 million, paid GHC300,000 for the system software, GHC600,000 for the printers and GHC500,000 for testing the automation system. But unseen hands with vested interests in illegally milking the state cow to death has stopped the DVLA country-wide automation by refusing to pay for the Internet connection after the contractor had completed work.

Unimpeachable sources close to the DVLA informed Public Agenda that a company known as ESS finished the piloting, testing and installing of VPN interconnectivity to the DVLA Wide Area Network (WAN) and linked to the Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) to monitor all vehicles imported into Ghana through the ports in September 2012. The contractor has been paid about 88% of the contract fees and the system was to be launched in December 2012 to commence licensing drivers and registering vehicles electronically. ESS has completed and activated the installation of the WAN at twelve offices, including the DVLA Head Office, Accra (regional office), Tema, Kumasi and Koforidua. The automation of the DVLA operations involves the development, customi-sation and implementation of a number of information and communication technology (ICT) systems infrastructure. The procurement of these systems was subjected to the Public Procurement Act. The User Acceptance Test (UAT) has been finalised but the automation seems to be still-born, making waste the huge amount government spent on the project.

When Public Agenda got in touch with the acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DVLA, Rudolf Beckley, on phone, he directed this paper to the Public Relations Officer (PRO), Kweku Darko Aferi. But Aferi told us that the automation was 80% complete, which information our sources dismissed as total untruth and documentarily proved to us that the project was complete, awaiting only a formal launch. Not satisfied, this paper called Beckley and told him that Aferi's information has been debunked by our sources, he angrily insisted the PRO was the eye of the DVLA and knew the facts. When this reporter countered that he, as the CEO, was the head of DVLA and should know more and better than Aferi, he flared up and cut the phone call. He ignored repeated calls from this reporter. Justice Amegashie, the immediate past CEO of DVLA, declined to approve the launch of the automation before he left office in May. When contacted to explain why the automation has not been operational though every aspect of the project was completed as at last September, Amegashie said that the system was at the pilot stage when he left office. Yet he authorised payment for the ID cards and card printers. He directed me to contact Alex Owusu Aberese, the DVLA manager of Management Information System.

(MIS). Aberese was evasive but friendly when contacted on phone. He said 15 out of the 25 sites of the DVLA were connected to the WAN. He further indicated that the piloting of driver licensing started last September and that of vehicle registration would begin in a few weeks. He revealed that the online application for driver licensing is scheduled for the coming September. Aberese said the new CEO stopped the commencement of the full operation of the automation because he was studying the contract and discussed that issue with ESS. He said “the only problem is the cost of connecting DVLA to the ESS WAN, the bills to be settled.” He concluded that the automation will be fully operational nationwide in October after the DVLA is satisfied with the piloting and testing. Aberese's statement, however, has been contradicted by our sources who emphasised that the DVLA boss did not communicate his decision to ESS.

Public Agenda was told by Ben Odai, a consultant to the project, that contrary to the denial by the DVLA officials that the automation is not ready for implementation, ESS has been frustrated when the company pushed for the launch of the system. “The software is completed and waiting to be used as at the time I finished my work. It is left to DVLA to decide. We had planned to launch it in December but because of the 2012 elections, it was put off. I think it may be somebody internal who is pulling strings to stop the project. There is a new CEO and I don't know what he is waiting for,” Odai disclosed.

A former CEO of DVLA, Osei Owusu, in a Public Agenda phone interview, confirmed that he was aware that the automation, which was started when he was in office, was complete, adding “I don't understand why they haven't formally launched the project for the revenue leakage to stop.” The chairperson of the project sub-committee, Noble Appiah, told this paper that he did not know whether the automation was complete or not since he has not attended meetings for three months.

Readers, get more stinking details in our Friday Edition, August 23, 2013.

Source: Ayuureyisiya Kapini Atafori