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HomeNewsGRA-Tata questionable contract: Prof Stephen Adei threatens one-man demo against deal

GRA-Tata questionable contract: Prof Stephen Adei threatens one-man demo against deal

Former Board Chairman of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Professor Emeritus Stephen Adei, has declared that he will go on a one-man demonstration if Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) from India is allowed to take over domestic tax mobilisation in Ghana. 

He described the deal as “immoral, unpatriotic, and evil” and urged the government to stop it, saying, “You cannot and should not hand over our domestic tax mobilisation to an Indian company when all the evidence from the competitive bidding process shows that a Ghanaian company came on top.”

“The contract can only go to the Indian company on the basis of corruption and moral depravity, and I think that no Ghanaian worth his or her name should support this,” he quipped.

Prof. Adei’s strong declaration comes in the wake of reports that the Commissioner General of GRA, Julie Essiam, has ignored the board, defied all due process, and unilaterally willed Ghana’s domestic revenue mobilisation to TCS from India and its Indian-owned Ghana-based partner, IPMC.

In fact, Julie Essiam travelled to India in the company of the Head of Procurement at GRA, Daniel Foli, and signed the contract with TCS, giving them the green light to take over domestic tax mobilisation in Ghana in 2026.

This was in spite of the fact that the whole competitive bidding process for the award of that particular contract, called the Integrated Tax Administration System (ITAS), was cancelled on January 3, 2024, more than two months before Julie Essiam’s appointment as CG.

Moreover, both the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) and the Central Tender Review Committee (CTRC) had earlier rejected TCS/IPMC on the grounds that they failed to meet up to 80% of GRA’s requirements on deployment experience and also failed the 30% local content test.

Again, of the three top entities that qualified for the financial proposal stage, each with an over-80% score at the technical stage, TCS/IPMC’s was the most expensive. Out of the top three, Axon Information Systems had the lowest cost of US$41 million, followed by Persol and Atos with US$61 million, while TCS/IPMC had the highest cost of US$69 million.

Workers of GRA have even written officially to Julie Essiam, raising concerns about the cost of the contract with GRA, its impact on workers, and why the whole competitive bidding process was not started afresh after the cancellation of the first one, as the law requires.

In reaction to these developments, Prof. Stephen Adei said he is privy to the full scores of the initial competitive bids process for the ITAS contract, and he is fully aware that Axon, a Ghanaian company, came on top, per both the technical and financial proposals, so it will be only on the basis of “corruption and moral depravity” if GRA hands over the contract to the Indian company.

“I want to serve notice that, based on what I have seen and what I know, if the government allows this Indian company to take over our domestic tax mobilisation, I will personally embark on a one-man demonstration against it,” he said. “I, Stephen Adei, will not sit down and allow people like Julie Essiam to sell Ghana for a song.”

He added, “If this contract is really given to an Indian company, then all of us will have to be killed in this country because this is about patriotism. No Ghanaian company can go and take over revenue mobilisation in India. The worst we can accept is a local-foreign partnership that gives Ghanaian companies significant control,” he suggested.

Julie’s abiding agenda

Prof. Adei said he is not surprised that Julie Essiam was the one chosen by some persons with vested interest to execute such an “unpatriotic, immoral, and evil” move because she has always had an abiding agenda to select foreign companies over very competent local companies for jobs at GRA.

He recalled that two days after Julie Essiam was made Commissioner of Support Services, the Finance Ministry had decided to replace GCNET. Julie Essiam completely ignored the newly appointed GRA board at the time and travelled to Kenya to go negotiate with Technobrain, the company that used to provide technical backing for GCNET, to take over domestic revenue mobilisation in Ghana, but that move was stopped by the board.

Again, when the Prof. Adei-led board was dissolved in December 2020, they were called back to look at the budget for GRA, and they found an item of over US$100 million earmarked to contract a Canadian company to take over domestic tax mobilisation in Ghana. Again, Julie Essiam vehemently defended that budget, which confirmed that it has always been on her agenda to bring in foreign entities to take over Ghana’s domestic tax mobilisation.

“I strongly believe that Julie Essiam was specifically appointed as CG to execute this TCS/IPMC deal, and so I am not surprised by the way she is going about it,” he said. “But we must know that when foreign entities are in charge of your domestic tax mobilisation, the corruption rate is very high.” 

The former GRA Board Chairman said what surprised him was how Julie Essiam was chosen as the new CG for GRA, given the fact that she was the head of Support Services and not directly involved in the core work of taxation.

“Promoting someone in her capacity to the high office of the CG is like appointing the Head of Works, the Head of Finance, or the Registrar of a University as the Vice Chancellor just based on seniority—it does not make sense,” he argued. “And if my memory serves me right, Julie Essiam was due for retirement in April 2021, so I wonder if her age is not more than the 61 years mentioned at her appointment.”

Appointments by connection

Speaking of appointments, Prof. Adei recalled that, for his 15 months as the Board Chair of GRA, he noticed that all five Acting Deputy Commissioners he met were appointed by “connection” rather than on merit. So when his board opened up applications, all five failed because some of their other colleagues were more qualified for those positions.

He noted that it is therefore not surprising to find that Julie Essiam, for instance, has been appointed to the position of Commissioner General, and she is quickly executing an unpatriotic contract in total defiance of due process, just to shortchange a very competent local entity.

“The government can choose whoever they want to occupy whichever office, but they must not do so to the detriment of revenue collection because, in her former capacity as Head of Support Services, Julie Essiam had nothing to do directly with taxation. Her actions now will only impact negatively on fiscal policy, and Ghanaians will be the sufferers for it,” he said.

Speak up

Prof. Adei therefore called on well-meaning Ghanaians to speak up against that contract and stand in support of growing competent local entities, which have the capacity to deliver on such contracts.

Currently, Ghana’s domestic tax mobilisation is being done by Axon Information System with their Ghana Integrated Tax Management and Information Systems (GITMIS), which, according to the technical staff of the GRA, is an ITAS system comparable to anyone in the world. The system mobilises about 76 percent of taxes in Ghana and has, for the past three years, helped GRA exceed revenue targets significantly.

Moreover, among the 12 entities that put in bids for the deal, there were equally competent Ghanaian entities such as Persol and Atos, which currently run Ghana’s e-VAT system, as well as Tenth Generation Information Systems and Invinol, which put in bids to deploy the globally acclaimed SAP system for Ghana.

TCS’s questionable solution

Whereas all of the solutions put forward by the local companies have been tried and tested both locally and globally, there is zero record of TCS’s solution being deployed successfully anywhere in the world, not even in its own home country, India.

The TCS solution is known to have been previously deployed in Rwanda, Kenya, Zambia, and Uganda. But in all four countries, they have been kicked out for various reasons. Indeed, during a recent meeting at GRA, the team from TCS was asked to show proof of a successful deployment of their solution anywhere, but they failed to do so.

It is also important to note that all the way in the United States of America, TCS has been fined significant US$194 million for misappropriating the trade secrets of another company. TCS was found guilty of the offence by a court of competent jurisdiction in the USA.

Puretvonline.com’s mother tech website giant, Techfocus24 has made an RTI request for a copy of the contract, but to no avail, as Julie Essiam is said to be keeping the signed contract close to her chest. Attempts to get her to respond to the issues raised here also proved futile because she will not respond to WhatsApp messages or pick up her calls.