The Minister for Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has justified government’s decision to select telecommunications revenue assurance provider Kelni-GVG – insisting that it is the best the country could have got in terms of a common platform for telecommunications traffic monitoring.
“I stand here as a minister of the Akufo-Addo administration to assure this august house that I believe this is the best deal we could have got,” she told Parliament when appearing to present a statement on implementation of the common platform for telecommunications traffic monitoring, revenue assurance, mobile money monitoring and fraud management.
The minority has called for a Parliamentary probe into the entire deal, which has been in the news for weeks as critics have described it as raw-deal for the country.
“There has been absolutely no corruption or underhand dealings in this transaction. I can never be party to any such conduct as I value my reputation and the reputation of the government which serves the good people of Ghana,” Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful said.
Up until now, she said, there has not been any real-time capturing of traffic volumes by either GVG, Subah or Afriwave Ghana Limited.
She explained that these companies collect 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$2.6million per month.
This was the situation the NPP government inherited, the minister indicated, saying they could not have allowed it to continue – and hence a decision was arrived at last year at a stakeholders’ meeting to assess the situation and propose solutions.
It gave rise to establishment of the Common Platform by the end of 2017. In accordance with this directive, a vendor selection process took place after NCA personnel conducted site visits to other African countries implementing this platform before approval for restricted tendering was granted by the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) to commence this process, she said.
A key criterion for selection was the ability to monitor mobile money transactions, a value-added service provided by mobile network operators. The procurement process was followed strictly, she said.
The contract was thus awarded to the selected vendor – Kelni-GVG Limited – to build, operate and transfer the monitoring system. Kelni Limited is a Ghanaian company that entered into a Joint Venture with the Global Voice Group.
The Joint Venture has been established as Kelni-GVG Limited to implement the Common Platform under a contract signed on December 27, 2017.
The contract will be for an initial period of five years, renewable for another five years subject to certain conditions being met.
Key among these conditions is satisfactory performance by KELNI-GVG Limited, cost-effectiveness of maintaining the solutions and services provided, and the capacity in terms of technical resources of KELNI-GVG Limited to continue providing the requisite services.
The Common Platform will therefore be evaluated continuously to ensure that it remains fit for purpose, the minister noted.
“Mr. Speaker, the fee for this transaction is US$1.49million per month (as against the US$2.6million paid monthly to both Subah and Afriwave) and is within the industry average for Platform as a Service (PaaS) contracts of this nature,” she said.
The Communication Service Tax (Amendment) Act, 2013, Act 864, which amended Section 14 of Act 754 passed by Parliament, specifically enjoins the Minister of Finance to collaborate with the Minister responsible for Communications to, among other things, “establish a monitoring mechanism to verify the actual revenue that accrues to vendors for the purpose of computing taxes due the government…”
It is also grants government the right of ‘physical-access’ to physical network nodes in the vendors’ network at an appropriate point in the network where the network providers’ billing systems are connected.
The act also stipulates that a common platform be used for the purpose of monitoring revenues under the Act, as well as revenues accruing from levies under the Electronic Communications Act 2009, (Act 775).
11 June deadline
So far, the minister stated, Vodafone and Glo are currently in the process of connecting physically to the Common Platform (CMP); and added that she expects others – MTN and Airtel Tigo – to do so shortly.
“Their deadline for final connection is June 11, 2018, and failure or refusal to do so will result in imposition of the specified sanctions,” she said.
The Common Platform is necessary for monitoring international and domestic voice and data traffic, volumes, revenue and mobile money transactions in an independent way.
The Common Platform, she said, will conduct Mobile Money monitoring in addition to Traffic Monitoring and Fraud Management – a capacity the previous platforms did not have.
If the previous platforms were to provide this additional service, it would have come at additional cost; meaning that the payments would have exceeded the US$2.6million previously paid monthly, she indicated.
The new platform, she explained, will also do SIM-box fraud tracking with a Geo-location system to pinpoint the exact location of fraudsters using SIM-box locators; thus enabling their arrest and confiscation of equipment with support from the operators and law enforcement officers.
The common platform will provide services to both the NCA and the GRA as envisaged by the Communication Service Tax (Amendment) Act, 2013, Act 864.
When the Common Platform starts full operations, the cost of providing accurate data to both the NCA and GRA will be reduced significantly, the minister said.
“The cost savings will result in the NCA paying less than half of the amount it previously paid to Afriwave, while GRA will also be paying approximately 60% of the average amount previously paid to Subah – even with the addition of Mobile Money Monitoring. The cumulative savings on the monthly recurring cost to both the GRA and NCA is about 55% compared to what the two government agencies were previously paying,” she added.