17.02.2004 Feature Article

Ghana Telecom, The Saga Continues - Rejoinder From GT

Ghana Telecom, The Saga Continues - Rejoinder From GT
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On the February 9, 2004 news page of (an internet web site) was a feature article by one Kwaku Kwakye titled “Ghana Telecom, the saga continues”.
This article contained misleading and erroneous information and sought, among others, to cast a slur on the reputation of Telenor Management Partner (TMP). This rejoinder seeks to clarify certain twisted issues in the said article with the view to setting the records straight.
Telenor Management Partner (TMP) Upon the expiry of the Technical Services Agreement with Telekom Malaysia on February 15, 2002, the Government of Ghana caused to be published locally and in the international media, adverts requesting proposals from interested organisations willing to manage and develop Ghana Telecom (GT) into a modern and viable telecom entity.
Out of the twelve (12) bids submitted, TMP was chosen and requested to prepare a business plan for GT. Due to the unresolved differences between the Government of Ghana and Telekom Malaysia regarding shareholding and governance issues, it was not prudent for the government to offer shares to TMP. Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) In an MoU signed between the Government of Ghana and TMP on July 4, 2002, TMP was requested to demonstrate how it could meet the objectives of the government which included but not limited to :
· Provision of an additional 400,000 fixed lines by 2005
· Provision of adequate and stable cellular coverage in all regional and district capitals
· Provision of internet connectivity to all Senior Secondary Schools and Teacher Training Colleges within three (3) years
· Provision of high-speed data transmission servicing both public and private customers demanding such services.
· Introduction of systems and procedures of fraud detection and prevention
After extensive deliberations, the Government of Ghana approved the business plan and a Management Services Agreement (MSA) was signed on December 16, 2002.
The fees paid by the Government of Ghana to TMP in respect of the preparation of a well-thought out and comprehensive business plan, is in line with what pertains worldwide. It is therefore erroneous for the writer to have alleged that TMP collected unreasonably high fees for developing a “dodgy “ business plan.
It is worth stating that the fees covered the following:
· Services TMP rendered to the Government of Ghana
· Professional services provided by TMP experts both on location in Ghana and in Norway
· Travel, accommodation and subsistence allowances for TMP experts who shuttled between Ghana and Norway, collecting and collating information for the preparation of a business plan. State of Ghana Telecom The TMP management inherited a myriad of problems which engaged their attention for well over six (6) months:
· GT was on the brink of financial bankruptcy.
· Several projects had come to a virtual standstill due to non-payment of contractors handling them.
· Poorly configured network
· Lack of logistics
Similarly, there were outstanding debts due to suppliers of equipment and other logistics as well as other creditors.
The TMP-led management commenced business by evaluating operational problems of the company, identifying and cataloguing solutions and thereafter sought for financing to enable GT revive standstill projects and chart the path for the future. To enable it get on course, TMP needed to source for funds to support the business plan and to enable it meet financial obligations of suppliers and creditors.
The response from local financial concerns has been phenomenal and has made it possible for settlement of debts and the establishment of confidence and credibility within the financial community. This has also facilitated the placement of orders for new state-of-the-art switches with the desired capacities to replace old equipment. This will make it possible to serve many more customers efficiently and reduce, if not completely eliminate, poor service delivery.
One other reason for the six months delayed take off is the dispute between the Government of Ghana and Telekom Malaysia over governance issues. Customer care For an effective handling of customer services, the TMP-led management has established a Network Operations Centre which monitors GT's entire network and among other things ensures that faults are detected and handled promptly.
Management is also putting in place a fraud-management system to cater for the incidence of telephone usage abuse. Payphone services To cater for the needs of the majority of people who do not have access to telephone service in their homes/offices, the company is rolling out about 10,000 additional public payphones and this includes the deployment of GSM equipment to cover areas where GT has no fixed line facilities. ONEtouch mobile services The TMP-led management is working feverishly to establish GT's ONEtouch GSM network as the fastest and technologically advanced network in Ghana and high-tech up to date equipment is being installed. With new roaming agreements now coming into force the network will cover the whole West African sub-region by 2006. TMP personnel Under the Management Service Agreement (MSA), TMP was obliged to provide qualified personnel for the positions of Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Technical Officer in consultation with the Government of Ghana. Qualified Ghanaians were to hold other managerial positions and in keeping with the provision under the MSA, the top 3 positions mentioned above are held by Norwegian personnel, while qualified and competent Ghanaians occupy all other management positions. The assertion of the writer that “key executives at GT are all Norwegians employed by TMP” is therefore baseless. Besides the 3 top permanent positions, there are currently 23 other Norwegians serving in advisory capacities to support key operations and special projects. This figure will vary depending on the number and complexity of the on- going projects. The seconded staff from Telenor working in advisory capacities have behind them varied expertise and they possess the relevant experience from developed as well as developing countries, needed for the transformation of GT from its present state into a world-class telecom service provider.
Based on its experience of transforming Telenor of Norway from a public entity to a private company, TMP is well positioned to accomplish the same feat for GT. Ghanaian workforce GT's four thousand three hundred (4,300) workforce is well motivated and better remunerated compared to their counterparts in other sectors of the economy. What is lacking in terms of work ethics and attitudes is being vigorously addressed through a recently launched “Change Programme”, whose main aim is to ensure that employees eschew negative tendencies and establish acceptable work attitudes towards the attainment of corporate goals.
Ghanaian employees at GT enjoy an annual emolument of USD 25 million (225 billion cedis) and not the ridiculously low figure of USD 1 million as stated in the article. Staff training and recruitment GT under TMP is mandated by the Government of Ghana to provide an additional four hundred thousand (400,000) fixed lines by 2005 in order to extend telephone services to every town with a Senior Secondary School, Teacher Training College or University.
In pursuance of the above, management is retraining the existing workforce with the requisite skills needed to handle new equipment and technologies to meet the challenges ahead in a competitive telecom business environment. From February 2003 to date, four hundred (400) Ghanaians with varied educational backgrounds and skills have been employed and two hundred and fifty (250) more will be signed on in 2004. We are completely at a loss in understanding the writer's allegation that “TMP has not employed a single African or Ghanaian to work with them at Ghana Telecom…….they have in fact sidelined the Ghanaian employees at GT and have replaced almost all of them with Europeans and a couple of Americans”.
Indeed the Advisors attached to the various operational departments and again those in charge of projects, work hand in hand with their Ghanaian counterparts who are benefiting tremendously from transfer of knowledge and expertise. Capacity building To better equip Ghanaians with the requisite industry know-how, management under TMP intends upgrading the Ghana Telecom Training Centre (GTTC) into a telecom university. This will be GT's contribution towards the nation's human resource capacity development.
Currently GTTC is undergoing a major facelift with the aim of refurbishing laboratories, replacing old equipment and teaching aids with ultra-modern facilities. Engagement of local contractors No telecom company possesses the expertise and resources to embark on all the projects it undertakes and for that reason, contracts which consist of hardware and software installations are handled by hired experts who also provide training for the operation of complicated equipment.
The type of telecom equipment GT deploys is usually manufactured and procured from outside the country and this explains why contracts for the supply of equipment involves foreign companies. In order for GT's technical staff to benefit from the expertise of these foreign companies, management pursues contracts that have the Build, Operate, Train and Transfer (BOTT) feature. This means that no system is handed over to GT until it is fully operational and the GT staff have been adequately trained to handle it.
On the other hand, about one hundred (100) Ghanaian companies are involved in the cable and civil engineering works of GT's roll-out expansion programme and these include:
· Dizengoff (Gh.) Ltd.
· Kenpong Construction Co. td.
· Reime (Gh.) Ltd.
· Musetti Construction Ltd.
· Cadastrial Ltd
· Georgeland Ltd.
· Ventures Ltd.
· G-Land Construction Ltd.
to mention a few. It is therefore absurd for the writer to state that “none of the contracts have as yet been awarded to Ghanaian companies”. Conclusion Telenor is a Norwegian telecommunication group with extensive and fast growing business operations in 18 countries and presence in more than 30 countries. It is Norway's largest supplier of fixed and mobile communication networks and the leading player in the development, sale and distribution of communication, entertainment and information services in the Norwegian residential and business markets.
Telenor has an extensive international company portfolio. The largest operations are in mobile communication, via companies in 12 countries in Europe and South East Asia. Telenor is the world's largest supplier of mobile satellite communications, and the leading satellite broadcaster in the Nordic reigon. Telenor is the world's third largest supplier of satellite services via the Inmarsat system and the leading TV distributors in the Nordic region.
The following alphabetical list shows countries in which Telenor has operational activities and is performing creditably: · Austria · Bangladesh · Canada · Czech Republic · Denmark · Finland · Great Britain · Greece · Hungary · Italy · Malaysia · Montenegro · Nigeria · Norway · Russia · Slovakia · Sweden · Thailand and · Ukraine
Telenor which has about 22,000 employees and revenues of NOK 45 billion, equivalent to USD 6.5 billion, was listed on the Oslo stock exchange and on Nasdaq in 2000.
TMP, a fully owned subsidiary of Telenor, is providing support to players in the telecommunication market including full corporate and management responsibilities as well as technical advisory services.
As an integral part of the industry leader in Norway, TMP is mindful of the need to protect its reputation and will always be guided by the need to provide the quality of service it is known for and has been associated with both in Norway and its overseas operations. In furtherance of this TMP will rely on its highly trained and motivated technical/engineering human resource base, which will be made available for the transformation of GT.
In its effort to help transform the telecom landscape in Ghana and contribute towards the socio-economic development of the country, GT will need the support of well-meaning Ghanaians and indeed all stakeholders. GT's objective of providing efficient reliable telecom services to all corners of the country is an arduous task and GT under a TMP-led management is determined to succeed and will not succumb in the face of detractors who are bent on turning the clock of progress back. GT however welcomes constructive criticisms and suggestions that will help the company realise it's goals. J. Tetteh-Addy General Manager/Corporate Communications Ghana Telecom

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