The controversy that erupted when Afriwave Telecom Ghana Limited was awarded a 10-year contract to build and operate an Interconnect Clearing House contract (ICH) seem to be resurfacing as industry players are calling on the National Communication Authority to with immediate effect, review the contract and if possible abrogate since “it is a needless enterprise”.
“Apart from the flat rate of GH¢4.52m which NCA pays to Afriwave monthly, they are also paid some rates depending on the traffic flow which will sum up to about GH¢8m every month”
Ironically, Afriwave paid a paltry GH¢4m for the 10-year license. “How can I issue a license to you at a fee and then turn around to pay you huge sums of money every month without me the regulator benefiting? It does not happen anywhere in this world” a communications analyst who pleaded anonymity told the ABC News yesterday.
Relying on a July 31, 2015 letter written by then Deputy Minister of Finance, Casiel Ato Forson, where the Ministry issued a stern warning and directed the NCA to refrain from awarding any contract for revenue monitoring, the source said the contract must be “abrogated immediately and then investigated”.
The letter, among others cited the Financial Administration Act which reserves the responsibility of revenue monitoring to the Finance Ministry.
On why he was calling for an investigation into the award of the contract, the source claimed that “the taxpayer is paying so much to Afriwave just because of the interest of Seth Tekper, former Finance Minister and Dr Omane Boamah, former Communications Minister. They never got on well”.
He further alleged that “while Seth Tekper was promoting Subah Infosolutions, Dr. Omane Boamah was also promoting Afriwave so these gentlemen must be invited to explain their roles in the award of the contract especially to Afriwave”
“The contract is a complete rip-off looking at the money involved”, the source added.
According to the contract, a copy of which is possession of the ABC News Afriwave will be paid GH¢3.52million (GH¢3,521,864.70) monthly for report on traffic volumes and revenue, – GH¢ 600,000 monthly for anti-fraud testing based on performed activity and GH¢400,000.monthly Geo-Location services based on performed activity.
Afriwave will also be paid GH¢0.50 per every sim card replacement. “So it means that if you lost your sim card and you went to the telco to replace it for you, Afriwave will collect 50 pesewas. For what, I do not know”
What NCA did was completely illegal because Parliament stated categorically in the amended Electronic Communication Act 2016, that an Interconnect Clearing House will not provide tax revenue assurance, and shall not be responsible to account for tax revenue to government.
Revenue assurance is a form of audit that verifies directly from the telecom companies the volume of traffic and compare it with the taxes the companies pay.
It would be recalled that the controversy over the award of a monopoly licence to Afriwave took an amazing twist, with a revelation that the NCA purported evaluation report which scored Afriwave high marks was unsigned.
The report, which was in possession of then Deputy Minister of Communications, Felix Kwakye Ofosu, during Joy Fm’s ‘News File’ programme, appeared to have no signatories of the members of the Application Evaluation Panel headed by Albert E. Enninful, deepening the suspicion that the bid process was cooked for Afriwave.
Policy think-tank IMANI Ghana had indicated that the processes leading to the award of the licence to Afriwave were riddled with fraud.
According to IMANI, the Application Evaluation Panel that looked into the capabilities of five companies that had put in bids to manage the ICH platform rigged the process in favour of Afriwave.
The companies which put in bids were Afriwave, Subah Infosolutions, Prodigy International Limited, TCMS-GVG Consortium Limited and Channel IT Ghana Limited.
“This whole process was rigged to guarantee a perverted outcome that can be seen from the remarks of the panel in various parts of the report,” IMANI claimed, adding, “The Panel manipulated its own scoring scheme to ensure that Afriwave came on top, regardless of the actual results; and they did so with brazenness that is almost farcical.”
But the NCA in a rebuttal said there were ‘some transpositional errors’ that led to some of the bidders scoring high marks during the assessment process but it was later ‘corrected.’The call for investigations into the award of the contract to Afriwave comes on the heels of media reports that some former officials of the NCA, including Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, former Board Chairman; one Alhaji Osman, former Deputy National Security Coordinator, and others allegedly withdrew $4 million from the accounts of the NCA and have failed to account for it.
They had contracted an Israeli company, NSO Group Technology Limited, to supply listening equipment at the cost of $6 million, to enable National Security monitor conversations of persons suspected to be engaged in terror activities. A local agent, Infraloks Development Limited, was also charging $2 million to facilitate the transaction, bringing the total sum to $8 million.
But only $1 million was paid into the accounts of the Israeli company while the remaining $3 million was lodged into the accounts of one George Oppong, representing the local agents, Infraloks Development Limited. That money was allegedly shared among the officials.
Meanwhile, another source tells this paper that the Director of Regulatory Administration of the NCA, Kofi Datsa, who played a key role in the award of the contract is said to be sitting on tenterhooks as the Economic and organized Crime Office is set to delve into the matter.
The source also hinted that the monthly payments to Afriwave have been halted but was not willing to give further and better particulars