23 May 2014

Ghana: Subah Contract Shot Down

DESPITE THE exasperating defence it has put up to whitewash the scandal-soaked Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and Subah Infosolutions deal, the government now appears to be listening to public criticism, and plans not to renew the controversial contract when it expires next year.

The Deputy Minister for Information, Felix Ofosu Kwakye, announced on Metro TV yesterday that the Ministry of Communication was working around the clock to secure the necessary equipment that would enable the National Communications Authority (NCA) to do the monitoring of the telcos, and that the Subah contract would not be renewed when it expires in 2015.

The Subah-GRA deal has harshly been criticised by the public, because the Information Communication Technology (ICT) company failed to plug its gadgets to the physical nodes of the telecom companies, as specified in the contract, yet it was paid a colossal sum of over GH¢74 million.

A technical committee set up by the Ministry of Finance to review the contract, alleged in its report that though Subah could not connect to the physical nodes of the telcos, they deserved the GH¢74 million payment, because they collected Call Data Records submitted to the National Communication Authority (NCA), by the telcos, and analysed it.

In a letter written to the Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Telecom Chamber, Mr. Kwaku Sakyi Addo, punched holes in the claim that Subah obtained CDRs from the NCA which it analysed, and, therefore, deserved the GH¢74 million payment.

Kwaku Sakyi Addo, a journalist by profession, contended in his letter that the CDRs they submitted to the NCA contains records of international calls only, and that the telcos do not submit records of domestic calls, from which the Communication Service Tax (CST) is charged to the NCA. To the telcos, Subah could not have, therefore, worked to merit the amount paid to it.

So far, there has been no official denial from the government about the claims being made by the telcos that they do not submit CDRs on domestic calls to the NCA, but some of the government communication team members have been hopping from one radio station to the other, alleging that journalists have been compromised by the telcos to attack the Subah deal.

But, so far, no journalist has questioned the decision by the government to monitor the telcos to ensure that the right taxes have been paid. What is at the centre of the criticism is whether Subah actually performed the functions spelt out in the contract to merit the money paid to it.

Industry players have also raised questions as to whether it is even prudent for the government to have awarded such a contract to a private entity, instead of resourcing the NCA and GRA to perform the function.

"Indeed, auditing is an integral part of any tax agency worth its salt, and the fact that government would pay a company millions of cedis to do what it already does, gives the impression that the contract was contrived to siphon money from the government fiscus into private pockets.

"There is no other way to look at it, given the facts as they are," a renowned economist, Dr. Nii Moi Thompson, noted in an article he sent to The Chronicle some time ago, reacting to the relevance in awarding the contract.

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