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29.10.2013 Editorial

GRA Should Not Scapegoat The Telecos

By Ghanaian Chronicle
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In initial remarks on Monday, five days after The Chronicle broke the GH¢144 million Subah Infosolutions scandal, we get the impression of an attempt to scapegoat the telecom service operators.

In a report on myjoyonline , GRA Commissioner-General George Blankson was quoted as saying that Subah Infosolution could not carry out the first of its two-leg mandate of attaching its monitors to the network of the service providers to independently confirm their earnings, because 'this was fiercely resisted by the telecos.'

Consequently, Subah Infosolutions was just left with carrying out the second leg of its job – analyzing the data reported by the telecos themselves.

Asked why the GRA continued to pay for services only partially rendered, the GRA Commissioner-General responded that efforts were being made to obtain access to the systems of the companies for Subah Infosolutions Ltd., and there was no need to abrogate the contract.

'In any case,' he added, 'the GRA had a valid contract running till 2015 with the company, and couldn't vary the terms on a whim.'

Asked when the GRA realised that Subah Infosolutions was unable to undertake the monitoring of the calls traffic, Mr. Blankson said it was in late 2010, but said payment continued till May this year, when the Finance Minister intervened to stop the payments.

The GRA Commissioner-General insisted due diligence was done in selecting the company and that ill-motives should not be imputed.

The Chronicle is not in the business of imputing motives, ill or good. Ours is to state the facts as we see them. First, the illegality of the payments to Subah cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be blamed on the telecos.

The Communication Service Tax law that empowers the GRA to enter into a contract such as the one with Subah, also grants the service providers the right to challenge the law at the High Court within a week of its coming into effect, if they thought it necessary.

The CST bill was passed in 2007/8. This would imply that the telecos challenged the law long before the 2008 elections. But, the GRA signed the contract with Subah in 2010, about two years after the telecos objected to the law and the case was still in court.

And there was no clear indication as to when the case in court would end, and the draft bill sent back to Parliament.

The GRA gave out a US$100 million contract to Subah Infosolutions at a time when GRA knew there was a legal road block to Subah linking its monitors to the networks of the operators, a condition-precedent for carrying out its mandate.

Now, if the condition-precedent was unable to be implemented, how can the subsidiary, dependent leg of the mandate be used as a reason for sustaining the contract? The condition-precedent was to ensure that the operators reported their earnings truthfully. This was the crux of the contract.

The GRA cannot be heard to say Subah Infosolutions was carrying out part of its functions, when it was merely analyzing the revenue data reported by the telecos themselves, for it was precisely because it was feared the telecos would under-report their revenue that the GRA deemed it necessary get a third party to source the data.

In the considered view of The Chronicle, the contract with Subah Infosolutions or any other company for the same purpose should not have been signed until July this year, when the amended CST law, acceptable to the telecos, was passed.

The signing of the contract in 2010, for a function which had no legal backing, amounted to putting the cart before the horse. And look at what that has cost Mother Ghana - a whopping GH¢116 million down the drain - if, indeed, payments to Subah were stopped in May 2013, a full 29 months from January 2011, at an average of GH¢4 million monthly.

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