Telecom Mafia Denies State Billions of Ghana Cedis

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The recent arrest of the ex-boss of the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA), Dr. Alexander Tweneboah, as part of the over US$33 million SIM Box fraud, has also led to the disclosure of underhand dealings by all the mobile telecommunication companies operating in the country.

The illegality of the Telcos namely; Airtel, Tigo, MTN, Vodafone, Expresso and the Nigerian-owned Globacom; owners of the Glo network, actions is denying the state billions of Ghana Cedis.

Excerpts of a “Financial Assurance Audit”, carried out by the government on the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and available to The Herald revealed that, “without exception, the MNOs were found wanting in the submission of requested data (Call Detail Records (CDRs), contracts, invoices etc)”.

The investigation was carried out by Deloitte and Touché, and five other audit firms. It was not clear what triggered the investigation into the books of the Telcos. They were discovered to be owing billions of Ghana cedis, which have since been retrieved from them into state coffers.

The audit firms, disclosed the difficult situations they faced while carrying out the probe, late 2013, saying, “in all cases, there was delay in the submission of data to the Consultants; some requiring strongly- worded letter to the MNOs, before operations data was made available”.

Their acts were said to be in fragrant violation of the Electronic Communications Amendment Act, 2009 (Act 775), Section 25(A) sub section 2.

The law unequivocally states that “A network operator that charges a lesser rate than that specified in subsection (1) is liable to pay to the Authority on behalf of the government a penalty of twice the difference between the specified rate and the rate actually charged.”

It said, the Call Detail Records (CDRs) “provided were limited in all cases and did not cover the entire period stipulated for the project. The excuse given in all cases was that the data was not available”.

It was discovered that the companies adopted, “…. different methodologies by MNOs to compute regulatory fees”.

The report said, “there were inconsistencies in methodologies adopted by MNOs in computing regulatory fees; each MNO had its own methodology for calculating the regulatory fee. As a result, the MNOs made unapproved deductions from their gross revenues before calculating the regulatory fee”.

“These unapproved deductions made by the MNOs in calculating the regulatory fees resulted in a significant deviation from NCA’s calculations”.

On under payment of regulatory fees, it was discovered that “all the MNOs underpaid their regulatory fees”.

It was further discovered that all the companies were found to be “charging below the stipulated price for international incoming traffic”. They were supposed to be charging US$0.19 for incoming international calls.

The breakdown is tabulated in the table below with Vodafone being the company owing the biggest amount GH¢18,824,000.00. Expresso owed the less amount of GH¢ 46,685.

MNO Assessed Liabilities Status
1% Regulatory Fee (GH₡) International Incoming Traffic (GH¢)
Airtel 308,734 2,471,390.72 Paid in full
Expresso 46,685 Paid in full
Tigo 208,405 US$50,047 Paid in full
Scancom (MTN) 5,641,315 14,230,493.93 Paid in full
Vodafone 1,632,982.13 18,824,000.00 Paid in full

Meanwhile, the government, has indicated its intension to setup a “Clearinghouse” to help mitigate SIMbox fraud and other related frauds in the telecommunication industry.

It will serve as an anti-telecom fraud mechanism, policing the telcos, as well as simboxers diverting revenue from reaching the state coffers for national development.

Insiders at the Ministry of Communication, explained that the Clearinghouse, shall verify the identity of every potential subscriber against a national database before clearance is given to a Service Provider for any number activation to a Service.

The Clearinghouse, will maintain a database of verified identification of registered SIMs and shall block any unregistered SIM from calling or receiving national and international calls adding, “all national and international calls shall be transited through the Clearinghouse”.

It will maintain a database of verified identification of type approved telecom user equipment and shall block any user equipment without type approval from making and receiving calls.

The ministry sources, warned that all “SIMboxes are forbidden in Ghana and thus cannot be used to transit calls with a Clearinghouse in operations”.
The Clearinghouse, shall operate other various anti-fraud management mechanisms to ensure that all manner of telecom fraud and unsolicited messages are mitigated.

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