Telcos given ultimatum to connect operations to Kelni GVG or face sanctions

BY: Musah Yahya Jafaru
Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful
Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful

The Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has given telecom operators one month to connect their operations to the Common Platform (CMP) provided under the Kelni-GVG contract.

She said everything was ready for all operators to be connected and warned that companies that failed to connect by the expiry date of June 11, 2018 would be sanctioned.

According to her, the telcos were duly notified on May 11, 2018 about the one-month ultimatum.

"The CMP will provide real time monitoring of all traffic volumes on all networks as has never happened before; it is currently conducting anti-fraud testing, as envisaged; the Network Operations Centre has been set up, connected and equipped with hardware and software," she said.

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful made this known when she appeared before Parliament on Thursday to present a statement on the Kelni-GVG contract as requested by the House.


It followed a request by the Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa.

Mr Ablakwa had said the $89-million contract awarded to Kelni-GVG had gained currency with civil society organisations and asked why Parliament was not exercising its oversight responsibility over the matter.

Consequently, he said, it was important for the Minister of Communications to brief the House on the matter.

The contract had gained currency in the media following reports that the National Communications Authority (NCA) was against it.

Read also: IMANI's criticism of Kelni GVG contract is 'noise' - Finance Minister

The President of IMANI Africa, Mr Franklin Cudjoe, is reported to have said that the $89-million contract was a careless duplication of jobs and a needless drain on the country’s scarce resources.

He pointed out that Subah and Afriwave were awarded similar contracts under the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration to perform similar jobs, even though both contracts were needless.

Denial

The minister denied allegations that the Kelni-GVG deal was fraught with corruption or underhand dealings.

She said the contract to deal with revenue losses and Simbox fraud in the telecommunications sector was in the best interest of the country.

"Mr Speaker, there has been absolutely no corruption or underhand dealings in this transaction. I can never be a party to any such conduct, as I value my reputation and the reputation of the government which serves the interest of the good people of Ghana.

"We are acting in the interest of the good people of Ghana to safeguard revenue that ought to accrue to the state," she said.

Read also: Minority has no hands in $89m Kelni GVG deal – Haruna Iddrisu

Mobile transaction

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said the Ghanaian-Haitian firm was hired to monitor telecommunications traffic, revenue assurance and mobile money activities and manage fraud in the mobile telephony industry for revenue assurance, in line with the Electronics Communications Amendment Act, 2009, Act 786.

She said Afriwave Ghana Limited was granted a licence to provide Interconnect Clearing House (ICH) services, which included monitoring of international incoming traffic and anti-fraud monitoring, a task which was not a core function of the ICH.

The minister said Subah Infosolutions was also performing the same task and that engaging Afriwave to perform the same task meant a duplication of functions.

"To avoid this clear duplication, the NCA wrote to inform Subah Infosolutions that its services were no longer required by the authority, but Subah ignored those letters," she said.

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said the tasks for which Subah and Afriwave were hired were never delivered in real time and that they relied on the servers of the NCA, while they were being paid US$2.6 million monthly.

She said on coming into office, the government agreed to terminate the contracts of Subah and Afriwave amended and all outstanding payments made by the NCA.

"They are no longer providing traffic monitoring services for the NCA and have been restricted to clearing house operations. This function is also currently not operational and the NCA has no financial obligations to them. Afriwave was hitherto being paid GH¢4 million per month,” she stated.

 "Mr Speaker, Subah is currently in court challenging the termination of its contract by the GRA on the grounds that it was not given the requisite three months’ notice and has procured an injunction which is also being appealed against. While we abide by the conclusion of this legal process, the status quo remains unchanged and we will proceed accordingly.

"The NCA, the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Finance have no contract or agreement with Subah on the implementation of the provisions of Act 864 and we are hopeful that they will resolve their differences with the GRA sooner rather than later," she added.

In defence of Kelni-GVG

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful denied that an NCA board member had resigned because of the contract.

Besides, she said, there was no 10-year contract worth $178 million. Rather, there was a five-year $89 million contract which might be renewed subject to stated conditions being fulfilled.

"This is far better than the $150m plus we paid for the past five years for very little value. Kelni-GVG is not a foreign company. It is a joint venture between a Ghanaian company registered in 1995, with experience in electrical engineering, IT solutions and systems, in addition to other business interests, and GVG, which has 20 years’ experience in telecoms revenue assurance and IT solutions," she said.

She said the government was not paying for no work done, adding: "Neither the NCA nor the GRA currently has the capability of providing this service and have indicated so.”

She said a team just returned from training in Spain and indicated that deliverables and timelines under the contract had been met to date, adding that the training of NCA/GRA personnel was ongoing.

Minority's reaction

The Minority MPs, led by their leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, insisted that the contract be probed by a parliamentary committee.

Mr Iddrisu said Kelni-GVG was not a Ghanaian company and that the deal needed to come to Parliament for approval of the contract which was signed on behalf of the NCA.

He said the responses given by Mrs Owusu-Ekuful to the concerns of the Minority and civil society raised more questions than answers.

He, therefore, asked the Speaker to open a probe into the deal.

Delivering his ruling, the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, said there was no need for a probe or an enquiry into the contract.