PAMC GhanaPost Response*FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TO ALL MEDIA HOUSES*
November 4, 2017
*ATTN: MINORITY GROUP IN GHANA’S PARLIAMENT*
*PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE MEDIA COMMUNICATORS (PAMC) PETITIONS MINORITY IN PARLIAMENT ON *
In February this year, Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumiah convened a meeting which was attended by key stakeholders including Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama and reps of Ghana Police, ECG, Lands Commission, National Information Technology Agency (NITA), Ghana Post, Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands, Tema Development Corporation, Survey and Mapping Division, Land Valuation Division, and the Ghana Land Administration Project out of which two committees, Legal and Technical were formed and tasked to initiate, develop and implement a digital property addressing system to address the issue of differing and disjointed approaches of property identification by Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and other state agencies such as ECG, Ghana Water, Lands Commission and Ghana Post. The outcome was a $2.5 million GhanaPost Digital Addressing system, developed by a company called Vokacom. The software was launched by the president of the republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Akuffo Addo on Wednesday 18th October, 2017.
In our efforts to ensure transparency in governance for the good people of Ghana and the optimal use of our scarce economic resources, Progressive Alliance Media Communicators (PAMC) having critically examined the Digital Addressing system seek to educate Ghanaians and the entire world and to express our disappointment in the obviously little attention to value for money for this digital addressing system and to petition the minority in parliament to seek further and better particulars on the entire project. Our disappointment in the government’s inability to think outside the box to analyze the strategic relevance of the system can also not be over emphasized.
In his inaugural address His Excellency the president of the republic of Ghana said and we quote “State coffers are not spoils for the party that wins an election, but resources for the country’s social and economic development. I shall protect the public purse by insisting on value-for-money in all public transactions”, on the contrary the realities of his governance in the ten month period has proven to be completely different and inconsistent with his promises. The recently launched Digital Address System does not only expose the naiveté of the current government but the president’s failure to live by his promises especially protecting public purse and making sure of value for money for public transactions.
The issues surrounding the app and its functionality are manifold. In the first place the company that developed the app has a similar app in google play store called Asaase GPS which is downloadable for free. There are similar apps like snooCode and what3words that are also available for free and do similar jobs as the Digital Addressing system the president and the vice made Ghanaians and the entire world believe it is unique. Googlemap offers similar services for free as well. Where lies the value for money when an app which is available for free in the cloud space has been procured by the government of Ghana for a whopping $2.5 million especially when it is also alleged Uber paid only $68,000 for a more sophisticated app.
A. GHANAPOST APP’S LACK OF STRATEGIC SUBSTANCE IN OUR SOCIO-ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION
In one of his speeches, the president promised to continue projects that were in the pipeline prior to the exit of the previous government and when convening the maiden meeting that gave birth to this app, the vice president mentioned the synergy between this app and the national identification system. When launching this app the president clearly stated that registering your address with the app is a pre-requisite for registration with the National Identification Authority and this comes as a surprise and a big concern to us as that statement obviously indicates that the president and his vice are aliens to our national IT spectrum and the relevant strategic initiatives to harness and leverage the national identification project across institutions. We are also deeply concerned that an app fraught with so much technical and security flaws is meant to feed into no less a thing than a national identification database!
B. THE DIGITAL ADDRESSING SYSTEM IN THE CONTEXT OF OUR MISSION CRITICAL I.T PROJECTS
A World Bank loan for an E-Transform project was approved in October 2013 for Ghana to embark on an extensive IT program called e-Transform. Our national Data Center, the 700 kilometer eastern corridor fiber optic and the related managed services component funded by the Government of Denmark are all meant to feed into this mission critical project. The project is meant to have all public institutions and MMDAs connected together in one virtual environment through the eastern corridor fiber optic to the national data. These projects were essential in achieving our objective of having a common denominator that uniquely identifies all residents in the country and reflects across all the public institutions in Ghana. The national identification database is paramount to this objective and our entire IT projects in general, in that it is expected to hold the primary key (the identification ID) that will uniquely identify all residents in the country, both foreigners and nationals. It is therefore imperative that data integrity of our national identification database is not compromised. Therefore with the craze of launching the app the president touting the digital addressing system as a pre-requisite for registration with the national identification is a clear sign of ignorance and a reason to worry.
PAMC can easily deduce two things from this serious issue. *First issue is the integrity and security of the data to be captured by the app.
*Secondly, the lack of strategic relevance of the app with Ghana’s mission critical IT projects.
C. THE DIGITAL ADDRESSING SYSTEM’S INCONSISTENCIES WITH ONGOING APPLICATIONS
The GhanaPost app is built on a google platform that has demarcated lands into sizes that are neither fit nor consistent with plot sizing and allocations in Ghana. For example, each standard piece of land in Ghana may need a minimum of two digital codes from the app which translates into two different addresses for one plot. To make it worse, Land Use and Special Planning Authority under Ghana’s Town and Country Planning is implementing a Land Use Planning and Management Information System (LUPMIS) which uses a code called UPN number to identify all pieces of land in the republic of Ghana. Lands Commission is also in the process of digitizing all pieces of land in the country dependent on the UPN numbers generated by the Town and Country Planning. PAMC would like to know where the digital codes generated by the GhanaPost app fit in this setting. The national identification database is also expected to link to land ownership using one key unique identifier. Is it the GhanaPost generated code, LUPMIS UPN number or our legacy plot numbering system, using plot numbers and blocks? The newly generated codes from the Ghana Post app has worsened the confusion across our MMDAs and public institutions. Digital Address Systems is an excellent initiative, but the timing, the context, setting and process around it raises a lot of questions. It does not even have terms and conditions before a user signs up. No client side or server side validation to ensure values entered in the user interface are compliant with expected values. In a nutshell the system does not fit into ongoing IT projects
D. PROCUREMENT PROCESS FOR THE GhanaPost CONTRACT
In view of the afore-mentioned facts, issues and potential issues PAMC would like to seek further clarification on the procurement of this project.
i. Since the app is just the beginning as subsequent processes need to be followed to capture data for onward submission to relevant agencies. We would like to know if this project is meant to be a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) or a once off purchase.
ii. Was the relevant approval processes duly and diligently followed in the procurement process that informed the choice of contractor and the contract sum
iii. Was the project advertised in public domain? If so can the Honorable minister responsible for procurement furnish Ghanaians with the details as to the media used for the advert, how long the advert was in the public domain and the media outlets contracted?
iv. Another important information we are also seeking is, if the procurement process followed a competitive bidding and the reasons for landing on this specific contractor.
v. If this was a once off purchase and not a PPP we would like to know the details of the IT Consultant who was engaged to perform the necessary consultancy services that resulted in the $2.5 million contract value. We wish to have access to the various items and the associated values in the tender document
Against, this backdrop, PAMC would like to recommend as follows
a) The government takes a step back on all our IT projects and engages a consultant to develop a high level architecture of our entire IT landscape to be used as a blueprint for our ongoing mission critical IT projects. This will ensure the various institutions work in consultation with each other with clearly outlined acceptance criteria within and across institutions
b) The government engages the services of a consortium of Business and Quality Analysts to use specific parameters to ensure the various IT projects have clearly defined goals, expectations and test processes for individual projects and entire solutions.
In conclusion, we would like to reiterate our petition to the minority in parliament to use the due processes to engage the president, the vice and all stakeholders for answers to our concerns and questions raised. Failure to comply with this gentle request, PAMC will not hesitate to engage the donors and other sponsors of our various IT projects to ensure resources are optimally utilized and products delivered are fit for purpose.
We are eagerly awaiting your response by close of business on Monday 20 November 2017. Please do not hesitate to engage if this deadline cannot be met. As mentioned earlier we will not hesitate to escalate our concerns if you fail or refuse to cooperate.
Thanks your attention.
THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, REPUBLIC OF GHANA
OFFICE OF THE VICE, REPUBLIC OF GHANA
HON ADWOA SARFO MINISTER OF STATE FOR PROCUREMENT