Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has described as ‘scurrilous’ and ‘unwarranted’ the allegations of corruption leveled against her by her colleague New Patriotic Party (NPP) member, Kennedy Ohene Agyapong.
Mr. Agyapong, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin Central, was alleged to have said that his colleague MP for Ablekuma Central and Minister of Communications, Ms Owusu-Ekuful, supervised a corruption-ridden process in the award of contract to produce National Identification cards by the National Identification Authority (NIA).
As a result, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo intervened, asking the Ghana Police Service to investigate the allegations.
However, the Assin Central MP, later stated that he never mentioned the communications minister as being corrupt neither did he make reference to the two deputy chiefs of staff at the presidency.
Ursula, as she is affectionately called, finally broke her silence last Friday when she said in a statement that “I am constrained to respond to the unwarranted and scurrilous allegations leveled against me in my capacity as Minister of Communications.
“These untruths have been widely and erroneously repeated in various media. I categorically refute the allegations of corruption made against me in relation to the award of the contract for the production of national identification cards by Mr Kennedy Agyapong.”
She pointed out, “they are patently false and I challenge him to come forward with evidence that corroborates his outlandish allegations.”
Giving a background to the case, Ursula said, “Following a comprehensive review and report by the technical and legal committees established by H.E the Vice President in January 2017, the government determined that the agreement between the National Identification Authority (NIA) and Identity Management Systems (IMS) constituted a ‘viable and effective’ vehicle for the implementation of a modern, robust and reliable National Identification System (NIS) for Ghana. Subsequently, H.E the President formally directed the National Identification Authority to engage with IMS to ensure efficient roll-out of the NID.”
“The falsehoods are clearly born out of ignorance so it is important to clarify that the NIA is not an agency under the ministry of communications; that is why the directive was signed by the Chief of Staff in the Office of the President. In accordance with the law of the land, the NIA’s reporting line is directly to the Office of the President,” she explained.
The minister said, “Consequently, as the minister of communications, I did not and could not have awarded the contract for the NID, or indeed oversee the process, it would have been ultra vires.”
She said that the ministry of communications, alongside other agencies of government, “is however a key stakeholder in the national identification project,” adding, “Those others include Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), National Information Technology Agency (NITA), Births and Deaths Registry, National Health Insurance Authority, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, amongst others.
“We are thus actively in collaboration with the NIA and IMS to ensure the timely and efficient roll-out of the national ID cards in line with the government’s agenda.”
Madam Ursla Owusu-Ekufful said she welcomes the investigations by the CID, saying, “Even though I am yet to be contacted, I will cooperate with the law enforcement agencies to ascertain the truth.
“A strong message needs to be sent to those who deliberately disseminate disinformation. I look forward to a swift resolution of this matter.”
Mr Kennedy Agyapong, in the heat of the debate, said last week that he did not mention the name of the communications minister and added that contrary to claims that he had been ostracized by the government, the president granted him audience for about three hours.
He, however, refused to explain his allegations that some people were demanding $20,000 from investors before they could have access to the president.
No new contract
Over the weekend, the Executive Secretary of the NIA, Prof Kenneth Agyemang Attafuah, waded into the matter, describing Mr. Agyapong’s allegation as ‘baseless’ and ‘untrue.’
The criminologist told Joy FM that there was no new NID contract awarded by the NPP government; it was rather an existing contract signed with IMS in 2012 during the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration that was being activated.
“In this instance, NIA has not signed a contract, neither has the Akufo-Addo presidency or government signed a contract with Margins or any company whatsoever. The NIA has not opened a bid for the National ID project. It has not received any bids or submissions from any person, entity or body whatsoever,” he fumed, adding, “Kennedy Agyapong has not submitted any bid to the NIA in respect of the National ID project.”
Prof Attafuah continued, “NIA has not evaluated any bid from any quarters at all in connection with this matter. What the government has decided to do following the report of a technical committee established by the vice president to advice government on what to do about the NIA, is that government had determined that the existing contractual agreement between the NIA and Identity Management System, which is a subsidiary of the Margins Group of companies, for the production of ID cards to foreigners lawfully resident in this country, constitute a viable framework for giving to the people of Ghana a robust, modern national smart card and identification system.
“Therefore the NIA should proceed with that arrangement which existed prior to the NPP coming into power.
A Plus invitation
In a related development, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) has formally written to controversial musician and satirist, Kwame Asare Obeng, popularly called Kwame A Plus, recently to assist in investigating his claim that two deputy chiefs of staff were engaged in corruption.
President Akufo-Addo ordered the Financial Forensic Unit of the CID to look into the cases involving Samuel Abu Jinapor and Francis Asenso-Boakye.
A letter A Plus displayed on social media which was signed by CID Director-General, COP Bright Oduro, asked the musician to report to the CID headquarters in Accra tomorrow to assist the police in the investigations.