The National Communications Authority-Afriwave Scandal is the latest public sector corruption scandal to rock the Ghanaian airwaves.
Yes, like many of the scandals that have been worth every bit of the controversy, and airtime spent discussing them, the NCA-Afriwave scandal involves several millions of dollars.
But yet again, just like many of the previous scandals, the discussion has only been for the keen economic and governance minds, and not the average populace. As usual, the average man seems apathetic or confused.
Well, Pulse Business' Emmanuel Quist breaks it all down to basics and presents 9 facts about the Afriwave Scandal that you may have missed.
1. Who is Afriwave Ghana Telecom
Afriwave Telecoms Ghana Limited is the company that has been awarded the license or contract to operate an Interconnect Clearing House.
Afriwave Telecom is a wholly Ghanaian company set to engage in telecommunication equipment supplies, installation contractors, telecom consultants, manufacturers' representatives and value added network services aimed at serving both private and public sector clients.
2.What is an Interconnect Clearing House and why does Ghana need it
First, let's explain what a Clearing House is or does. The term is more commonly used in the financial sector where financial transactions are reconciled and audited.
A telecoms Clearinghouse, therefore, refers to a central platform where calls from different Mobile Network Operators converge for billing and reconciliation to be done. Call data are also produced here.
So in a nutshell, the Interconnect Clearing House will help the Ghana Revenue Service to properly track the number of calls exchanged between the telcos operating in the country in order to properly track total revenues accruing to the telcos from those calls so they can be properly taxed.
The following are a couple of misconceptions about the ICH that needs to be dispelled, according to Entrepreneur & Telecom Consultant Telecoms Expert, Osman Issah:
- There is no reason for consumers to harbor any fears about confidentiality because the same stringent licensing criteria and data protection laws binding telecom operators will apply to the ICH.
- The ICH is a private finance initiative and comes at NO cost to the taxpayer.
- The introduction of the ICH will NOT reduce quality of service but rather significantly improve it. As an independent body, it will measure ASR and ACD, report and engage defaulting parties to improve or face sanctions.
- ICH is NOT an unnecessary level of additional bureaucracy, indeed giving an independent report on minutes usage and conducting revenue monitoring ensures that all minutes are accounted for. The ICH, in effect, is a revenue assurance unit to the regulator and state.
3. How the Clearing House License was awarded to Afriwave
The National Communications Authority says it started the procurement process two years ago, where the companies contending for the license were made to pilot their operations with the Telecommunications companies. The process then ended in January 2016 with the final bid being awarded and an evaluation report on the qualifications of the chosen company, Afriwave, presented to the board of the NCA.
4. How much is involved
The Director General of the NCA, William Tevie told Pulse Business, that the total amount of money payable to Afriwave Telecoms Limited to operate the Interconnect Clearing House amongst other auditing services, is 7 million dollars.
5.What the controversy is all about
As stated above public attention was drawn to the contract by MP for Obuase West, Kwaku Kwarteng when he alleged that the NCA had awarded the contract to Afriwave under fraudulent circumstances.
According to him, the NCA had notified telecommunication companies operating in the country that Afriwave would take over the audit services of tSubah Infosolutions who were the last company contracted to do the job. This was before Afriwave's bid was evaluated by the NCA's Independent Applications Evaluation Panel. Of course, the NCA immediately released a statement refuting the allegations. According to them, what Kwaku Kwarteng describes as an illegality, was very much a part of the procurement system.
6. Imani Ghana's Involvement
Imani Ghana took over from where Kwaku Kwarteng left off, leveling damning accusation of fraud against the NCA and the independent Application Evaluation.
Imani took the controversy further by releasing a document that was purportedly leaked by a member of the Independent Evaluations Panel of the NCA.
The document was allegedly the evaluations report of the capabilities of the companies who tendered a bid for the ICH license.
The document showed that the panel had allegedly skewed the evaluation process in favour of the Afriwave Telecoms Ghana Limited. In some instances, the total awardable score was 1 but Afriwave was given 5. In total, Afriwave scored 34.5 out of 40 marks.
This incurred public disaffection for the process, and sparked pressure for the contract to be abrogated. There were also unsubstantiated rumours that the Minister of Communications, Dr. Omane Boamah owned controlling stake in Afriwave and thus is motivated to get the contract for Afriwave.
7. NCA's Response to the Allegations
The NCA held a press conference on Wednesday, February 11 to debunk all the allegations of fraud levelled by IMANI Ghana. They accused IMANI of peddling falsehood from a fraudulent document just to make the NCA look bad.
They dared IMANI Ghana’s president Franklin Cudjoe to release the identity of the member of the Independent Evaluations Panel who supposedly leaked the document to Imani.
On the authenticity of the document, NCA maintained that the evaluation report could not have been leaked by any member of the panel. According to them no member of the panel has a copy of the final report after it was handed to the NCA board, and once the doument in possession of IMANI Ghana has the signature of the Board Chairman of NCA, it could not have come from the panel. According to them, the evaluation report only moves from the panel to the Board and not the other way round.
They followed their claims with a power- point presentation of what is supposed to be the real, final evaluation report of the NCA. This document did not include any of the mistakes Imani Ghana alleged. It is however unclear if the mistakes were later corrected and made to look cleaner than they actually were before.
8. What is the latest
The controversy rages on. Imani Ghana released its last Afriwave report, or so we think on Monday 15th February.
In this report, the second- best policy think- tank in Africa accused the NCA of cleaning up the final evaluations report in order to cover their fraud. They cited some inconsistencies in the the typographic look of the report that suggested that the numbers were changed to look more coherent than they originally were.
9. What Next
At this point it is unclear what will happen next. But the Director General of the NCA, William Tevie has maintained that the NCA will not buckle down to pressure from IMANI and other Civil Society Organisations, assuring Afriwave that the award of the license will not be abrogated.
At this point, according to the constitution, the Chief of Staff or Parliament’s finance committee can review the contract and take a decision on the matter. Or a private citizen can decide to take the NCA on in the court of law.