By William Yaw Owusu
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Manhyia South, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh aka Napo, says the licence issued to Afriwave Telecom Ghana Limited to operate the controversial interconnect clearing house (ICH) for telecom companies is illegal and cannot be used.
He does not understand why the regulator - National Communications Authority (NCA) - should allow Afriwave to install its machines at the telecom companies when the Ministry of Communications only got cabinet’s approval to prepare a legislation governing the ICH policy for onward approval by Parliament just last December.
He said currently there is no law backing the award of the contract to Afriwave because Parliament was yet to pass the ICH Bill into law.
The introduction of the ICH policy and the subsequent award of a contract to Afriwave, which is said to be wholly Ghanaian-owned, have set tongues wagging since policy analysis think-tank, IMANI Ghana, raised a red flag that the bidding process was rigged to favour the supposed winner - Afriwave.
According to Franklin Cudjoe, president of IMANI Ghana, the NCA evaluation panel that looked into the bids of five contesting companies did everything, including padding of figures, to ensure that Afriwave was awarded the multi-million dollar contract.
The companies are Afriwave, Subah Infosolutions, Prodigy International Limited, TCMS-GVG Consortium Limited and Channel IT Ghana Limited.
At the end of the bidding process, Afriwave was handed the golden spoon and IMANI suspects serious foul play.
The NCA has hit back at IMANI’s claim and reiterated that “the processes leading up to the award of the Interconnect Clearinghouse Licence were transparent and in accordance with the laws of Ghana. Any suggestion otherwise is false, malicious and same ought to be disregarded.”
The regulator has since published the report of the Application Evaluation Panel on the Interconnect Clearinghouse Services Licence and other relevant documents for the public to judge.
“The NCA has taken this step in the interest of transparency. This is the final report bearing the signatures of all members of the panel that was presented to the Board of the NCA on 29th January, 2015. The contents of the report are a true and accurate reflection of the exact findings and recommendations of the AEP,” it said in a statement yesterday.
According to the Manhyia South MP, the NDC government breached the law by failing to secure legal backing before issuing the licence to Afriwave to operate an ICH.
He said a law exists to govern the policy for interconnect clearing house and if the policy is changed, the law ought to be amended to reflect the changes.
“As soon as they got Cabinet approval for policy change, they proceeded to award a contract and 11 months after they have awarded a contract they are going back to the same Cabinet to seek power to come and do the change,” he argued on Joy FM yesterday.
He queried, “So what was the rush to award the contract when you didn’t have legislation?”
He also said there appeared to be a ‘turf war’ between the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Communications in respect of the ICH in the area of revenue mobilisation.
He drew attention to a Finance Minister letter dated December 2015, addressed to the Communications Minister, Edward Omane Boamah, in which the Finance Minister expressed misgivings about the perceived intrusion.
The NCA, following an allegation made by another MP, Kwaku Kwarteng, that the government was paying both Subah and Afriwave for doing the same work, clarified that Afriwave had not started operations officially and therefore did not deserve any payment.
The Obuasi West MP had said ‘criminal’ double payments were being made to two firms - Subah Infosolutions and Afriwave Telecom Ghana Ltd - for monitoring incoming international telephone traffic of telecom firms.
The Director-General of the NCA, William Tevie, denied the allegation and said, “Afriwave will start operations in May after the contract for Subah Infosolutions has come to an end officially.
“Afriwave has since installed and integrated its systems with that of all mobile network operators (MNOs) to ensure a continuous and smooth transition period when the contract of Subah Infosolutions ends in May 2016.”