Telcos have called the bluff of Communications minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful after ignoring her strongly-worded deadline to comply with a government plan to monitor their call traffic as a means of verifying the accurate tax payments.
Only Glo connected into the system operated by Kelni GVG which has been contracted by government to provide call traffic data which will be used to verify if telcos declare the correct taxes.
Giants MTN, Vodafone and AirtelTigo stayed out as the 11-day deadline rolled out without event.
The telcos have raised concerns about privacy of client data if they plug into the $89m Kelni GVG system.
Government has been dragged to court over the contract as private citizens Maximus Amertogoh and Sarah Owen Asafu-Adjaye allege the Kelni GVG contract would breach their fundamental right to privacy and give the government access to the data of millions.
But the Communications minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has described the telcos’ privacy concern as a “facade” and “smacks of disrespect of our laws”.
She said these fears are not borne out of facts because Kelni GVG and the regulator National Communications Authority are data protection compliant.
She observed that these multinational companies are not complaining about privacy issues in countries like Rwanda and Uganda where their systems are monitored by GVG and called their fears “completely unjustified”.
She had warned on the floor of Parliament on May 31, 2018, the Communications ministry would not hesitate to apply sanctions to non-complaint telcos.
She said companies who fail to comply within 30 days, will pay a penalty of 5% of audited revenue of the previous year’s operations as stipulated by law.
If the infraction persists after 90 days, their licences could be revoked, she said and warned: “let me serve this notice that we will enforce this provision fully”.
Government is mandated by Electronic Communications Act to independently verify call traffic to assure revenue. Over the years, governments have had to rely on the tax declarations made by the telcos after they submit their Call Data Records (CDRs) to the regulator, the National Communications Authority.
Government no longer wants the status quo to continue as they suspect these CDRs “could be manipulated” so that telcos declare lower call traffic volumes and therefore lower tax payments.
The minister has said, there are “no guarantees that they have not been tampered with.”
Vice-President of policy think-tank IMANI Ghana Franklin Cudjoe has said the failure of the telcos to comply is not surprising because the directive was “weak” and “had no legs”.
Franklin Cudjoe who has severely criticised government over the deal with Kelni GVG repeated his criticism that the contract is needless. He has said the government has not done any value-for-money audit to determine the actual returns on the investments.
He said on Joy FM’s Top Story Monday, the contract may offend Ghana’s Public Financial Management Act which requires that the deal gets the approval by the Finance minister and later Parliament.
If Kelni GVG is unable to implement the contract due to the non-compliance of the telcos, they could walk away with half of the contract sum as compensation for contract cancellation, he claimed.
“How can anybody callously design a contract like this”?”, he fumed describing it as “genocidal.”