$178m KelniGVG Deal: Ursula faces parliament today

Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful and the Director-General of the National Communications Authority (NCA), Joe Anokye, are expected to appear before parliament to brief the House on the controversial $178m KelniGVG contract today, Tuesday, 29 May 2018.

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful is expected to brief the Communications Committee of Parliament following red flags raised about the deal by think tank Imani Africa.

Imani’s founding president, Franklin Cudjoe, who first raised the alarm on the deal, had said that apart from a board member of the NCA who resigned earlier this year over the deal, more board members were threatening to resign in protest to the contract – a claim the NCA Board later refuted.

“We don’t know who owns GVG. Meanwhile, the ministers are sitting and talking at length. How on earth under Akufo-Addo government can a minister work with a company that doesn’t have a track record?” Mr Cudjoe wondered.

The Imani boss insists the deal is “needless” and a rip-off.

He has petitioned the Vice-President’s Office and also had conversations with the Chief of Staff with the aim of convincing them to cancel the contract for the design, development and implementation of a common platform for traffic monitoring, revenue assurance and mobile money monitoring, which, according to him, is superfluous.

Mr Cudjoe argues that firms like Subah Infosolutions and Afriwave Telcom Ltd. were contracted to do exactly what KelniGVG has been tasked to do.

The only additional responsibility spelt out in the new contract with KelniGVG, he said, is the task to monitor the Mobile Money Interoperability system, which, according to him, is already being done by the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Limited (GhIPSS), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bank of Ghana, thus, needless, too.

Per the KelniGVG deal signed in December 2017, the government of Ghana will dole out a monthly payment of $1.5 million to the Haitian firm over a five-year period, beginning 30 days after execution of the contract.

To him, “This contract is no different from the ones we signed in 2010 and 2015 under Subah and Afriwave. In fact, the two contracts were supposed to do the very things that this new contract is purportedly to do; revenue assurance and check fraud. The only thing that has been added this time around is mobile money monitoring for which we have given GhIPSS $4 million to do.”

“First of all, we don’t know what work Subah did. We don’t know what work Afriwave has done. We don’t know what value they have added to the whole telecom industry for us to warrant another entity to come and repeat the same thing for the hefty sum. It is a no no no”, he told Accra-based Citi FM.

On 22 May 2018, he told Accra-based Starr FM in an interview that: “GVG keeps changing their websites. Sometime back, when we took a screenshot of their website, we noticed they deal in cement and over a period everything changed on the website. MTN alone in 2016 paid about Ghs1.1bn in taxes and fees. In 2017, MTN alone paid about Ghs1.2bn in taxes and fees and together they pay more.”

Meanwhile, Communication Minister Ursula Owusu, in a response, told Mr Cudjoe that: “You don’t know what you are talking about; and if you had enquired before going off half-cocked, you’d have been educated. Every step taken was with the full knowledge and collaboration of the finance minister and the evidence is there. Public procurement rules were followed to the letter. The evidence is there.

“The same process is being undertaken in Rwanda currently with the same telcos here, and the one network policy being undertaken by the Smart Africa Initiative member states is facilitated by this same technical partner you are busily vilifying ignorantly here. Imani has not spoken to the MTN CEO on this Kelni GVG transaction yet Franklin Cudjoe quotes him on air as being opposed to this transaction. Who are you working for? Everything digital falls under the purview of the Ministry of Communications including digital financial services.”

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