Court orders release of US$89m KelniGVG contract in 7 days

Ursula Owusu-Communications Minister

An Accra High Court has given the Communications Ministry a 7-day ultimatum to make public the US$89million contract it signed with KelniGVG to operate a revenue assurance platform that is supposed to ensure mobile network operators are paying taxes which are commensurate with their revenues.

Although the ministry has insisted the contract signed with KelniGVG ensures value for money for government, it has failed to release the full contract entered with the Haitian company – prompting calls from some civil society groups for full disclosure to be made on the contract.

A pressure group, Citizens Ghana – represented by Sara Asafu-Adjaye and Maximus Ametorgoh, applied to the Accra High Court to compel the ministry to cancel the said contract.

The grouped argued that when implemented the contract will breach private conversations of telecom subscribers.

It sought an injunction at the Accra High Court in June after the Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, handed mobile network operators a June 11 deadline to allow Kelni/GVG to connect to their nodes – which would allow government to monitor call traffic.

But the ministry has continuously argued that KelniGVG will not be able to monitor calls because its system is not configured to do so.

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At Tuesday’s hearing at the Accra High court, Justice Anthony Yeboah set July 5 to give his ruling on an injunction application.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs, John Ato Bonful and Naana Adom Kanyi, requested a copy of the contract, arguing that the contract is of national interest and the law allows for its disclosure.

Justice Anthony Yeboah inquired from the Deputy Communications Minister, George Andah who was present in court, how soon they could make the documents available.

Mr. Andah said the ministry could, in between four and seven days, produce the documents and supply same to the plaintiffs. The judge consequently gave the ministry seven days to comply with the order.

The deal follows government’s attempt to implement the Electronic Communications Act, which requires government to independently monitor call traffic to determine its tax revenues.

Government has been depending on data supplied by telcos to calculate its taxes. But believing it could get more, government now wants to check call traffic – which forms the basis for calculating how much taxes telcos should pay.

KelniGVG’s contract

Government’s desire to ensure that it has an optimum real-time overview of revenues generated by mobile network operators was identified as one of the key factors that pushed it into entering the common monitoring platform project.

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Despite the Electronic Communications Regulations, 2016, requiring that the country must have in place a system to offer real-time revenue monitoring, the two key companies that existed at the time – Subah Infosolutions and Afriwave – could not deliver on that requirement.

The two companies relied on publicly available call records for their analysis in terms of what revenues the telecom operators made from their services. Consequently, the contract with the two companies was terminated and government turned its attention to a single company that could offer real-time revenue monitoring at a lesser cost.

The common monitoring platform that was awarded to Ghanaian-owned KelniGVG is said to cost the country about US$1.4million and will deliver on the real-time monitoring of revenues with the company having already built a platform for that particular purpose – thus ensuring that the country makes savings of more than US$1.1million off the previous arrangement with the two entities.

Apart from the real-time revenue performance, which is expected to provide a forensic view of MNOs’ revenue to ensure the right taxes are paid, the common platform comes with other key functions that are expected to provide the mobile telecoms industry with better and improved real-time data.

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