Investigation Exposes Alleged False Claims and Irregularities in SML Ghana’s Contract with Government

In a recent investigation conducted by Evans Aziamor-Mensah, Adwoa Adobea-Owusu, and Manasseh Azure Awuni of The Fourth Estate, serious allegations have emerged regarding the operations of Strategic Mobilisation Ghana Limited (SML). The company claims to have saved Ghana billions of cedis in the downstream petroleum sector, but the investigation suggests otherwise.

According to the report, SML entered into a questionable contract with the Ministry of Finance and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), receiving monthly payments of up to GH₵24 million from the government. The investigation reveals that the company, with the help of certain media outlets, made false and unsupported claims that served as the basis for these payments.

The Ministry of Finance and the GRA reportedly confronted SML about its claims on two occasions, indicating awareness that the assertions were false. In response to the investigative findings, several major services that SML purportedly provided to the government mysteriously vanished from the company’s website.

The report focuses on a 2019 contract between the Government of Ghana and SML, signed when comprehensive measures were already in place to address losses in the downstream petroleum sector. SML started offering “revenue assurance” services to the GRA in June 2020.

The investigation uncovered that SML, linked to Evans Timbers Limited, made bold claims on its website about digitalizing downstream petroleum product measurement, curbing under-reporting, diversion, and dilution of fuel products. However, the Fourth Estate team found that existing government measures, such as the Enterprise Relational Database Management System (ERDMS), were effectively addressing these issues.

Former GRA officials and industry experts raised concerns about the procurement process that led to SML’s contract, suggesting a possible breach of Ghana’s procurement laws.

SML allegedly made false claims of saving over GH₵1 billion and GH₵3 billion in revenue in 2021 and 2023, respectively. The investigation disputes these figures, indicating that even attributing all incremental revenue to SML falls short of the claimed savings.

When confronted, SML’s Managing Director, Christian Tetteh Sottie, admitted to the error on the company’s website but disputed the GH₵3 billion figure. The Fourth Estate emphasized the need for SML to acknowledge the inaccuracies still present on its website.

The investigation further reveals that SML, despite its claims, was not involved in checking under-reporting, diversion, and dilution of petroleum products. Industry players and regulators confirmed that existing measures, such as the ERDMS, were effectively curbing revenue leakages.

The report raises questions about the transparency of the contract, as both the GRA and the Ministry of Finance have not responded to Right to Information requests regarding contract details and payments to SML. SML’s reported monthly payment of up to GH₵24 million for services whose value remains unsubstantiated has sparked criticism.

Industry experts, including the Executive Director of the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), Benjamin Boakye, have called for the cancellation of SML’s contract, citing the company as a redundant addition to existing regulatory efforts.

SML Ghana’s contract, which allegedly duplicates roles performed by the GRA, the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), and other third-party companies, has come under scrutiny. Some GRA officials expressed concern over possible duplication of roles, with the NPA already having a system in place to track fuel transportation.

The investigation concludes with strong calls for the cancellation of SML’s contract, labeling it as a redundant and costly addition to existing regulatory mechanisms in the downstream petroleum sector. The lack of clarity regarding the contract details and payments, coupled with the alleged false claims made by SML, raises significant concerns about accountability and transparency in government dealings with private entities. The GRA and the Ministry of Finance are urged to respond to Right to Information requests and address the issues raised by the investigation.

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