BY STEPHEN ODOI LARBI
THE MINISTER for Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has revealed that Ghana, under the management of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), wasted a whopping amount of over US$ 150 million on a contract awarded to Subah Infosolutions and Afriwave Ghana Limited to monitor local and international calls.
The two companies, the Minister noted, were paid approximately US$ 2.6 million per month for a period of five years.
That means Subah Infosulotions and Afriwave Ghana Limited were paid US$ 156 million during the contract period.
“Mr Speaker, since traffic was never monitored in real-time, these companies collected data from the same servers as the NCA verification team and so inevitably, the monthly traffic data collated by the NCA from the network operators for free was substantially the same as the data presented by Subah and Afriwave for which the latter companies were paid approximately US$ 2.6 million per month.
“Mr Speaker, we were in effect, paying for no work done. This is the situation the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government inherited,” noted Mrs Owusu-Ekuful while addressing Parliament on Thursday, over the controversial Kelni-GVG contract.
She was in Parliament at the instance of the Second Deputy Speaker, Alban Bagbin, following calls by the Members of the Minority group to invite the Communications Minister to address the House over the Kelni-GVG contract.
Her comments, however, attracted stiff opposition from the Minority NDC Members of Parliament as they argued that the contract that was awarded to Subah Infosolutions and Afriwave gave Ghana value for money compared to the one awarded to Kelni-GVG Limited.
Subah Infosolutions and Afriwave Ghana Limited were engaged by the National Communications Authority (NCA) and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) on behalf of the Republic of Ghana, to perform domestic traffic monitoring as well as Inbound International Traffic.
They took over from Global Voice Group (GVG) in 2012, a year prior to the expiration of the contract of the telecommunications revenue assurance service provider.
GVG, the DAILY HERITAGE newspaper understands, entered into contract with the Government of Ghana in 2009 to monitor the Inbound International Traffic to ensure that the country received the required tax revenues.
They were also required to manage fraud on the network to reduce the incidence of traffic bypass, popularly known as SIM Box, since that also had an adverse impact on government revenue.
However, series of law suits from the telecommunications companies that had cited security of their network installations and privacy concerns led to the company terminating the contract it entered into with the GRA and the NCA.
The Ablekuma West lawmaker, commenting further on the issue, told the House that till date none of the companies contracted to monitor real-time traffic volumes of the telecommunications companies operating in Ghana had succeeded in doing so, thereby making it very difficult for the government to collect appropriate taxes from them.
This, she noted, informed the NCA to reaffirm its position to implement the provisions of Communications Service Tax (Amendment) Act, 2013 (Act 864) to the letter by establishing a Common Platform by the end of 2017, which subsequently led to the the cancellation of the contract between GRA and Subah Infosolutions and Afriwave Ghana Limited and the award of a new contract with Kelni-GVG Limited on a Build, Operate and Transfer basis.
The said contract is for an initial period of five (5) years at a cost of US$ 1.49 million per month and renewal for another five years subject to satisfactory performance, cost-effectiveness of maintaining the solutions and the services provided as well as the capacity in terms of technical resources.
Ultimatum to telecommunications companies
She said till date, none of the revenue assurance companies engaged by the NCA and GRA have been able to have access to the physical network nodes of the mobile network operators despite the unambiguous terms of the Communications Service Tax (Amendment) Act.
According to the Communications Minister, it is only Glo and Vodafone that are in the process of doing so, cautioning the other mobile network operators to comply with the provisions of the Communications Service Tax (Amendment) Act or face sanctions.
“The establishment of the Common Platform is a joint effort by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Communications as required by the Communications Service Tax (Amendment) Act, 2013 (Act 864) and the platform will eventually be handed over to the NCA and GRA after the contractual period.
“Mr. Speaker, equipment installation is almost complete and the platform is expected to be fully operational in July this year. Some services have already commenced and all the Mobile Network Operators are required to cooperate fully with the NCA.
“I am happy to announce that Vodafone and Glo are expected to be connected by the 11th of June. Any operator who fails to comply will be sanctioned. We will have real time monitoring and will physically connect to the network nodes of all the operators as enjoined by law,” Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful posited.
However, the Minority contends that the contract awarded to Kelni-GVG is a bad deal and must be probed by an independent or parliamentary committee.
Ranking Member for the Communications Committee and MP for Sagnarigu, A. B. A. Fuseini, contributing to the issue, said the entire process leading to the award of the Common Platform to Kelni-GVG was fraught with fraud, which must be investigated.
He said per the contract that was signed on December 27, 2017, which came into full operation after thirty (30) days, the Government of Ghana is to pay Kelni-GVG about US$ 1.5 million per month for services rendered.
However, he said till date, the revenue assurance company had done no work but had been paid US$ 7.5 million over a period of five months, an amount, he noted, could have been saved by the country for development projects if the government had not terminated the contract of Subah Infosolutions and Afriwave.