Mobile Money Interoperability: NPP or NDC initiative? Here are the facts

At the recent public lecture where he presented his vision for the country, Vice President and flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, boasted that his government introduced Mobile Money Interoperability (MMI) in the country.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we faced a major problem of very few people having access to financial services. To solve this problem, I championed the implementation of Mobile Money Interoperability (MMI). MMI has made it possible to transfer money seamlessly across different mobile money providers and between bank accounts and mobile wallets,” he said.

However, the Communications Officer of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Sammy Gyamfi, has contested Dr Bawumia’s claim.

In a press release on Tuesday, February 12, 2024, he indicated that “it is not true that Bawumia introduced MOMO interoperability.”

“On the contrary, the first MOMO interoperability system contract was awarded to a company known as SIBTON by the Bank of Ghana in 2016 under the visionary NDC/Mahama government. Bawumia only came to cancel this Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) contract under false pretences and awarded a new contract to his crony company,” his statement noted.

Fact-Check Ghana has verified the claims of both sides and presents the findings below.

In February 2017, several news portals published stories about the impending implementation of a Retail Payment Systems Infrastructure. (See here, here and here.)

This was barely a month into the first term of the NPP government.

A Ghanaian company, Sibton Switch Systems Limited (SSSL), had been licenced by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) to implement the retail payment systems infrastructure in 2016. The infrastructure was to enable a convenient, swift, and secure transfer of funds between different mobile network operators and bank accounts.

A new management of the Bank of Ghana was constituted after the 2016 elections. The management reviewed the terms of SSSL’s contract and terminated it in 2017.

On April 9, 2018, a month before Dr Bawumia and the BoG launched the current MMI service, SSSL filed a Request for Arbitration with the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) against the BoG. Sibton indicated that the BoG had breached the Master Agreement for the Ghana Retail Payment Systems Infrastructure entered into by the two parties. The company, therefore, sought USD 478 million in reliefs from the BoG.

In September 2019, the Central Bank dismissed one of its employees, Gilbert Addy, for “gross misconduct in relation to corrupt transactions and for accepting bribes in connection with the award of a contract to Sibton Switch Systems Limited in 2016 by the previous Management of the Bank of Ghana,” the Bank said in a press statement.

The Bank indicated that it found secret and corrupt payments of GH¢410,000.00 made by SSSL and its parent company Sibton Communications Limited to Gilbert Addy at the Bank of Ghana via a shelf company GIB JUST Systems Limited, which he owned.

“Indeed, he was listed as Director and Shareholder of the Company,” the statement added.

Mr Addy was the Project Manager leading the Ghana Retail Payment Systems Infrastructure.

After a three-year tussle in court, the BoG disclosed on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, in a statement, that it had won the case brought against it by SSSL.

The LCIA dismissed all the claims brought by SSSL in relation to the BoG’s termination of the Master Agreement for the Ghana Retail Payment Systems Infrastructure in 2017. The LCIA also ordered SSSL to pay the BoG’s legal fees and costs incurred due to the arbitration.

In conclusion, the initiative to establish mobile money interoperability (MMI) was commenced before 2017 through the awarding of a contract to SSSL by the erstwhile NDC government. However, the contract was terminated based on claims of impropriety by the new BoG management in 2017 when the NPP came into power. This led to the launch and execution of the current MMI service, which is being operated by the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GHIPSS), under the NPP.

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