BoG Floors Sibton Switch Systems In Arbitration

Dr. Ernest Addison – Governor of BoG

BANK OF Ghana (BoG) has floored Switch System Limited at a tribunal constituted under the auspices of the London International Court of Arbitration (LCIA).

The international court granted a ruling in favour of the Bank of Ghana by dismissing all claims brought by Sibton Switch Systems Limited in relation to the termination of the master agreement for the Ghana Retail Payment Systems Infrastructure in 2017.

Furthering to that, the tribunal also awarded a cost to the Ghana’s central bank in respect of its legal fees and costs of the arbitration.

It would be recalled that on April 9, 2018, Sibton Switch filed a request for arbitration with the LCIA against the Bank of Ghana for breaching the Master Agreement for the Ghana Retail Payment Systems Infrastructure entered into by the two parties.

This is because after appointment of a new management at the Bank of Ghana somewhere in 2017, it became necessary to review the terms of the contract entered into by the previous administration.

In doing that, the new management of the bank reached the conclusion that Sibton had neither acquired the licence nor fulfilled the condition precedent for the effectiveness of the rights and obligations of the parties.

The agreement, which dealt with the grant of exclusive rights to Sibton Switch to build, operate and own the Ghana Retail Payment Systems Infrastructure was therefore terminated on the basis that it never came into effect.

The claimant, Sibton Switch, went to the LCIA seeking relief in the sum of $478 million from the respondent, Bank of Ghana.

The contract awarded to Sibton Switch was said to be one-sided in favour of Sibton Switch and was severely detrimental to the interests of Bank of Ghana.

For example, the Public Procurement Authority approval for the project provided that the Bank of Ghana’s maximum liability was to be GHC300,000. Contrary to this approval, the corruptly-procured contract with Sibton Switch provided that the Bank of Ghana had a huge potential liability of $478 million (GHC2.6 billion).

Also, the tender price of Sibton Switch was more than 33 times more expensive than the next most expensive bid.

Following the termination of the contract with Sibton Switch in 2017, the Bank of Ghana’s subsidiary, GhIPSS, was able to deliver mobile payment systems interoperability at a small fraction of the cost, saving the Ghanaian taxpayers billions of Cedis.

Arbitration award issued in favour of the Bank

On 28 July 2021, a panel of three distinguished arbitrators issued an award in favour of the Bank of Ghana in the LCIA arbitration, dismissing all the claims brought by Sibton Switch Systems Limited.

The claims were dismissed due to the failure by Sibton Switch Systems Limited to comply with the orders of the Tribunal including an earlier interim award made by the Tribunal on 25 June 2019 in favour of the Bank of Ghana, which required Sibton Switch to make an interim award payment for security of costs.

The final award also orders Sibton Switch Systems Limited to pay to the Bank of Ghana in full, its costs of the arbitration, in respect of the Bank of Ghana’s legal fees.

Speaking on the ruling, Governor of BoG, Dr Ernest Addison, said that he was pleased with the favourable results outcome for the Bank in these proceedings, and for the billions of Ghana Cedis saved by the Ghanaian taxpayer as a result.

By Vincent Kubi