Row Over $89m 5-yr Contract

Policy think-tank IMANI Africa and the Minister of Communications are engaged in a raging row over the award of a contract to KelniGVG to render revenue assurance services covering telecommunication companies.

The ministry has denied accusations by IMANI that the company is duplicating the services of two existing companies, Subah Infosolutions and Afriwave Limited.

Subah and Afriwave contracts terminated

Communications Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful explained that the contracts signed with Subah and Afriwave have been terminated and reviewed respectively to prevent any form of duplication of services with KelniGVG.

Ghana saving $1.1 million a month?

Contrary to claims by IMANI that the contract awarded to the new company is a drain on the resources of the country, the Minister insists Ghana is making a monthly savings of $1.1 million on account of KelniGVG’s engagement

Owusu-Ekuful reiterated that the Ghanaian-owned company was appointed in 2017 after it emerged that the two companies – Subah and Afriwave – failed to render the services for which they were contracted but still got paid.

According to the president of IMANI Africa, Franklin Cudjoe, Subah and Afriwave were awarded similar contracts under the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration to perform similar jobs, even though both contracts were needless.

IMANI demands progress report on Subah and Afriwave deals

He found it worrying that a New Patriotic Party (NPP) government which criticised the Subah deal while in opposition will award another contract to the Haitian company to do a job two other companies are already doing.

He charged the government to the “scrap the new deal” and provide a “progress report” on the Subah and Afriwave deals.

While the Minister agrees with IMANI that Subah and Afriwave have failed to deliver on the services for which they were contracted, she said it could not have repeated the mistakes of the past by contracting and paying a third company for no work done.

Osafo Maafo Committee reviewed Subah and Afriwave deals

Owusu-Ekuful said shortly after the NPP came into power, the Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo, chaired a stakeholders’ forum to ascertain the quality of work being done by the two companies tasked to provide revenue assurance services and interconnect clearinghouse services between the telcos.

Subah and Afriwave never provided real-time traffic monitoring solution

She explained that after a thorough presentation, “it became clear there was a duplication of efforts by both Subah and Afriwave while none of them was providing the real-time traffic monitoring solution required for effective revenue assurance in this sector.

Subah and Afriwave depended on Call Detail Records of telcos

According to her, they both depended on Call Detail Records (CDRs) provided by the various mobile operators, information which was freely available to the National Communications Authority (NCA).
“The Government of Ghana was also paying both entities essentially for no work done,” she added.

New common platform

She said on the basis of the outcome of the forum, a decision was made for a common platform to be created to provide “proper revenue assurance”.

“Also, prior to this new arrangement, all relevant stakeholders were made aware of the fact that previous contractors’ services; namely, that of Subah Infosolutions and Afriwave, relating to traffic and revenue assurance monitoring were in effect terminated. There can, therefore, be no duplication as alleged by IMANI,” she said.

IMANI responds to Minister

In justifying calls for the abrogation of the deal with KelniGVG, Mr Cudjoe said the company, though registered in 1995, only got its website registered in 2017, adding that no experience had been listed in undertaking the tasks they had been awarded millions for.

IMANI says data of Ghanaians at risk
Cudjoe further argued that the deal will only put the data of Ghanaians at risk, saying “Ghanaians will have their data threatened if they allow this GVG company to play with their phone calls, chats, everything”.

He discounted the Minister’s claim, wanting to know why there is a current injunction by Subah if the pre-existing contracts have been terminated.

“Subah has taken the Ministry of Communication (MoC), National Communications Authority (NCA) to court and won an injunction which restricted the telcos from dealing with any new service provider because they have a legitimate contract with government,” he revealed.

IMANI poses fresh questions to Minister

1. Why is the Minister, who is a lawyer, paying almost $1.5 million a month for five years to a new company to look for what does not exist or waste time on mistrust?
2. If the Minister talks about international benchmarks and standards, don’t we rather pay the company only if they find hidden revenue?
3. The ministry’s own statement says they contracted GVG in December 2017, but their activities/services will only be functional in July 2018.
4. So, why pay them $1.5m a month for being non-functional until July 2018?
5. By our checks, none of the major telcos has connected to anything GVG.
6. The fully-equipped common monitoring system referred to by the Minister is probably equipped devices which are a figment of their imagination and certainly is not anything the mobile telecom industry is aware of.
7. How does rationalising $2.5 million to $1.5 million from voodoo contracts make you assume you are saving so you can enjoy from a bad contract?
8. Exactly what basis was used to cost the service and what exactly is the work order being executed to warrant outstanding payments of $7.5 million till date?
9. What is the actual estimate of calls lost to SIMBOX fraud per month that should require monthly outlays of $1.4 million?
10. We need the data on estimated losses through SIMBOX fraud, and that data should tell all Ghanaians whether the SIIT-related law in itself isn’t redundant.
11. In testing the system so far, is there any variance between CDR data and the data they purport to be getting from GVG’s system?
12. The GhIPSS system is the clearinghouse that clears all of Ghana’s formal financial transactions at the moment.
13. Is the Ministry of Communication saying that GhIPSS data cannot be trusted and therefore they need extra systems to validate our national clearinghouse data?
14. Who is fronting for GVG? Can we start seeing their owners?
15. Is mobile money, which is aiding financial inclusion, a taxed service to guarantee monitoring?
16. In any case, where is the Finance Minister’s signature on the contract?
17. They should call the Attorney-General and ask where she is in all these ongoing court cases injunctions and cancellation of contracts.

Owusu-Ekuful fires IMANI back

Owusu-Ekuful replied to the additional issues raised by IMANI.

“Seek knowledge before you expose yourself… You don’t know what you are talking about, and if you had enquired before going off half cooked, you would 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 KelniGVG 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.
“We work closely with all agencies to facilitate their work. We have a legal duty to setup a common platform to monitor all taxes and levies due to the state in conjunction with the Minister for Finance, and [we] will continue to do just that.
“Website? Come on. Is that a determinant of the competence of any organisation? Stop clutching at straws. Even nation states may not have any websites, and that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
“Clearinghouse functions of GhIPSS are totally different from visibility of on-net transactions, which are completed internally.
“More ignorance being exhibited here. The ‘I’ in GhIPSS means interbank!!! It refers to transactions between 2 or more entities.
“That’s where they come in. If it’s a totally internal transaction, it will be completed on their blind side. Our platform will monitor that.
“Considering the volume of on-net transactions, I’m surprised you say it’s not necessary. Get real dude!! 2018 is not 2010 or 2014. Kelni is not Subah, whose contract never went to the Central Tender Review Board.
“The facts and circumstances are very different so what Kwaku Sakyi Addo said in 2014 is neither here nor there.
“He currently chairs the NCA board and knows exactly what is being supervised by his management, who are the technical lead on this transaction.
“We don’t intend to have a public banter on this, and if you really want to know the facts, come to the MoC,” she added.