The National Communication Authority has said in the next three months it would carry out Revenue Assurance Audits of all the monthly call data reports (CDR) of the telecoms companies presented to the NCA to ensure that the number of minutes of international calls they report was accurate.

Director of Regulatory Administration at the NCA, Joshua Peprah said “If we find that any telco is lying to us about the number of minutes of international calls that come through their network that telco could face very serious sanctions even to the extent of losing their license.”

Joshua Peprah was speaking at the first Telecom Industry Knowledge Forum organized by the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications.

The forum would be a quarterly event and would focus on educating the public about industry issues that do not yield themselves for easy understanding. The maiden edition focused on SIM Boxing, which is a means by which some fraudsters terminate international calls coming into this country through local SIM cards fixed into some electronic boxes called SIM Boxes.

When calls are terminated through SIM boxes, the fraudsters make money, while the companies and government lose money.

Mr. Peprah noted that the loss of revenue to the state, including the fact that  because Ghana has become  a dumping ground for international calls, which were channeled to other destinations, government legislated on the rate and fixed the inbound international call rate at 19 cents per minute with 6 cent going into government coffers.

He said due to the fixed rate, government raised some $64 million last year alone from the taxes thereof, adding however that the challenge had been the refusal of the companies to allow the NCA to install the international gateway monitoring equipment on their switches to monitor exactly how many minutes of call came in from overseas in real time, to secure government revenue.

“We had wanted to monitor and know the number of minutes in real time instead of giving the operator a whole month to collate records and tell us what they want,” he said.

The companies took the matter to court and raised issues of suspected interference of the privacy of their clients, and possible interference with quality of service on their respective networks.

But Mr. Peprah said that was like asking importers to declare their goods at the borders but asking Customs not to check the goods and verify whether they matched what was declared on paper, and therefore secure revenue for the state.

He said while that matter was yet to be determined by the courts, the NCA was preparing to start doing a thorough audit of the records that the companies gave to the NCA and compare them with what auditors may find at the various base stations.

“We are working with consultants over a three-year period and the analysis we have done so far indicates that over the three years the state can make $200 million in taxes from inbound international calls so we are very serious with the audit – and if the records a company presents does not tally with our audit records the respective company is in trouble,” he said.

But the CEO of the Chamber, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo said integrity was a cherished value among all the multinational telecoms companies in Ghana, and they had systems and measures in place all the way at their respective group head offices that dealt with such matters and any staff found culpable could face jail sentence at the group’s home country.

Vodafone Ghana Revenue Assurance and Risk Manager, Ashlley Radcliffe said Vodafone had invested millions of dollars in systems to ensure quality of service and protection of customer privacy, as well as strict monitoring and reporting of all of its activities.

He said the company was not ready to take onboard additional monitoring equipment which may interfere with the quality of service and privacy of its customers.

“As far as we are concerned we check the number of minutes of international calls at several and various levels to ensure they are absolutely accurate before we present them to the NCA so we are not perturbed by any audit to be carried out by the regulator,” he said.

Mr. Radcliffe also insisted in his presentation that the 19 cents per minute of international call, was attractive to the SIM box fraudsters, adding that if government reduced it like was the case in Nigeria, that could eliminate the fraudsters to a large extend.

But Mr. Peprah countered that and said the 19 cents was way lower than what was being charged in Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and other countries in the sub-region, adding that other countries in Africa also came to learn the Ghanaian example, which meant it was not as bad as the companies sometimes made it look.

He however noted that government policy on SIM boxing, international gateway monitoring, and the international call rate could be reconsidered for any necessary changes if need be.

By Samuel Dowuona

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