How Nick Danso’s Africa Link Inspection Company got kicked out from Sierra Leone

…….over contract breaches

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Nick Danso

New information emerging reveals that Ghana Link, the local partners in the UNIPASS trade facilitation platform, contracted by the government to replace the single window platform designed and operated by GC Net and West Blue Consulting (now renamed Custom World of Dubai), failed to implement a similar contract in Sierra Leone and consequently had its contract terminated by that country’s government for reasons of non-performance and accompanying suspected financial malfeasance.

Ghana Link’s activities in Sierra Leone were unsuccessfully conducted by its wholly-owned subsidiary, Africa Link Inspection Company (ALIC).

Instructively, repeated efforts to establish a working single window platform in Ghana, by Ghana Link itself in partnership with UNIPASS of South Korea, have also so far failed, forcing importers and exporters to continue using the eminently successful platform introduced and operated by GC Net in partnership with West Blue, both of whom have had their contracts terminated by the government to accommodate the so far unsuccessful UNIPASS platform.

In neighboring Sierra Leone, Ghana Link used its subsidiary, Africa Link to secure a contract from the government on April 13, 2012, which among other things mandated it to develop, implement and keep up-to-date a computerized risk management system for verification of imports.

The agreement was ratified by Parliament on June 16, 2015.

Furthermore, on August 27, 2012, Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Trade and Industry instructed the general manager of the Sierra Leone Ports Authority to hand over the scanning of containerized cargoes to ALIC as well in line with a presidential directive which however was not ratified by Parliament.

However, following a formal request for information relating to the management of ALIC, the ministry of finance instructed its internal audit department to undertake a review of ALIC’s documentation and activities, covering the period 2012 to 2018.

The ensuing review revealed that ALIC had failed to fulfill its mandate with regards to developing a single-window platform, comprising a trade net messaging software that allows end-users, declarants, ministries, departments, and agencies to exchange data through the system. The review also revealed that ALIC had not fully complied with its contractual obligation to provide local and overseas training programmes in the areas of computerized risk management system, transaction price data and other aspects of the inspection.

Additionally, the review discovered no evidence that ALIC had paid corporate tax to the Government of Sierra Leone.

Indeed, a tax audit conducted by the National Revenue Authority revealed that the company had accumulated unpaid tax liabilities of about 45 billion Leones.

Indeed, it was revealed that ALIC claimed to have taken a US$4 million loan from its parent company, Ghana Link with an interest rate of 30 % per anum.

This conflicted with ALIC’s financial statements which put its capital at just one billion Leones and unsurprisingly, the Sierra Leonean authorities concluded that the loan – whose rate of interest is unheard of under contemporary global capital markets interest rate structures for the dollar-denominated debt – was a fiction devised to avoid paying corporate tax despite having received 110 billion Leones in inspection income – this being its share of 137 billion in total inspection fees collected from inception to June 30, 2018 – and another 26 billion Leones, this being 70% of a total of 38 billion Leones paid by importers as scanning fees.

Because of these, and other material breached of pertinent provisions of the agreement, the legal opinions of the Principal Legal Adviser to Government, as well as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, were sought by the Minister of Finance, and on December 18, 2019, they formally presented grounds for termination of the contract by the government.

Consequently, the Chief Minister directed, in correspondence dated January 30, 2020, that the contract between the Government of Sierra Leone and ALIC be terminated, and that the National Revenue Authority revert to its traditional responsibility of carrying out all destination inspections for all goods and services, without charging additional fees or taxes to customers; under the agreement with ALIC, the company had been taking 80% of the 1% of Freight on Board (FOB) in destination inspection fees paid by importers.

The Government of Ghana now faces the prospect of defending its decision to award the design and deployment of a single-window trade facilitation platform to a company that failed to deliver in a much smaller jurisdiction with much smaller international trade traffic, while evading both its corporate tax obligations and its training responsibilities.

The inability of Ghana Link to operate a single-window platform in Ghana is now made understandable by the company’s history in Sierra Leone – it simply lacks the expertise.

This also explains why the government has requested GC Net and West Blue to pass on their own hugely successful platform to the Ghana Link – UNIPASS partnership, a request which unsurprisingly has been rejected by the former, who is smarting from being replaced by apparently proven incompetent operators.

The latest revelations will make the government’s task, of upholding a widely unpopular – and now proven unwise – decision on the replacement of GC Net with UNIPASS, all the more difficult.

HARVARD UNIVERSITY HONOURS DR JOSEPH SIAW AGYEPONG

In another development the Harvard University presented a Veritas Key to Dr. Joseph Siaw Agyepong inducting him into the Veritas Society. The Veritas Society is a group of Harvard’s most generous alumni and friends.

Dr. Margot Gill, the University Marshal on behalf of Harvard University presented him with a silver key inspired by the original set of keys given to Harvard in 1846 and designed exclusively for the members of the Veritas Society.

She said “it is a unique keepsake that I hope will allow you to fondly reflect on your Harvard experience and feel proud of the important role you play in ensuring that Harvard continues to be a place of discovery for people leading positive change in the world and in Africa.”

Earlier, Dr. Agyepong signed the official Visitation Book at the office of the University Marshal, a book signed by sitting Presidents and Distinguished visitors to the School.

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