Are the TELCOS suing themselves to evade the tax control ?

Telecom operators were likely to be slapped with some fines outlined by the Communications Ministry for failing to connect to the new common monitoring platform. The Telcos were given a June 11, 2018 deadline to connect or face sanctions. However, reports say the Telcos have failed to connect to the platform (which to be managed by KelniGVG Ltd) even after the expiration of the deadline on 11June 2018.

In a more dramatic turnout ,Two citizens have sued the government over the traffic monitoring, revenue assurance and mobile money monitoring Common Platform.

The two, Sara Asafu-Adjaye and Maximus Amertogoh, are seeking an order restraining the government from implementing the Common Platform.

From my checks these are just activists and social media influencers who basically have just been on the sideline of the whole discussion ( be it technical or value for money discussion).

It is presumed that with the connection to GLO already done, and as per the terms of their contract, KelniGVG should be “100% ready to connect the nodes to the telco’s” . The deadline and call to action is upon us, this suit seems as though it is just a strategic move to free the telecoms from the sanctions and give more room for their consistent frustrations to the common platform.

The suit of an order of interlocutory injunction is to restrain the respondents, whether, by themselves, their servants, workmen, hirelings, agents, privies or any persons claiming under or through them, whosoever descried from implementing and operationalizing the Common Platform until the final determination of the suit.

Joined to the suit are the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, the Ghana Revenue Authority, the National Communications Authority, along with three telecom communications companies.

Why are the teleco’s and the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications part of this suit when they have made their points clear in opposition to this platform?

Kelni GVG was given an $89 million contract to develop and oversee the Common Platform for the state.

The implementation of the Common Platform is in line with the Communication Service Tax (Amendment) Act, 2013, Act 864.

The two believe the “intended implementation of the Common Platform Constitutes a real threat to the enjoyment of their fundamental human rights to privacy and for which reason on 8th June 2018, applicants commence an action against the respondents for the reliefs endorsed therein.”

They argued that “Instead of connecting to only the billing node as stipulated in Act 864, the connections will be made to all the physical network nodes.”

They maintain that this purported connection is “in breach of Act 864 and ultimately the applicant’s fundamental human right to privacy of their correspondence and communication as protected by article 18(2) of the constitution.

The strident opposition to the government’s decision to contract KelniGVG to monitor the inbound international traffic represents the unwillingness of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to allow the government to have full visibility of their actual traffic volumes

Assurance from the ministry of communication indicate that the monitoring platform will not have the capability of either snooping on the voice conversations or the data that is carried on the network and that is non-negotiable. So, if that is the only concern of the mobile network operators which they have expressed to the Ministry, the can therefore go to sleep on that score…

While the telcos are complaining in the public space about their legal dilemma, Subsection 7 of Act 864 gives them the opportunity to seek redress in the High Court on any matter of concern to them regarding the connection and monitoring.

The law gives telcos seven days after receiving the order to connect from the government to go to court, but so far none of the telcos has gone to court yet.

So why this law suit?
Possibly a desperate attempt by the telecoms to use every means to frustrate the effort of the government on the implementation of the Common Monitoring platform as has been the case.

Would the sanction of the 5% on turnover be a blow in the face to the telecoms?

Why are the telecoms not complying but seem to be hiding behind non-technical faces to display such ignorance of the Common Platform in the wake of all explanation and defense coupled with documentation available to public ?

Considerably a desperate move that should not change anything since the law is clear that the Common Platform for audit transactions is a must.

It is clear that some teleco’s under declaration of taxes learning from History ,Government should still would be in a clear position to have visibility of it citizenry .

Why the cry of privacy and security in the first place when all these telecoms are not even Ghanaian owned yet we could risk the data of all Ghanaians to them.

Even more so when they rely on third party agencies and equipment to provide the services they offer.

Would the Government that gave them these licenses be so ignorant to bring in a monitoring system that would rather be a danger to Ghanaians?

All over the world telecoms, interconnect and they do so in any purpose to give the best service or value added service to customers .

Even after the data breach on Facebooks network no API has been revoked but reviewed to serve in the best interest of users. Would they need to block on every app because one messed up ? NO

It will only take a strong minister to stand her ground as a citizen to grant the government visibility of what it due it yet with keen interest on the privacy of it citizens.

Abena Eshun
Freelance writer

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