A commercial high court in Accra on Wednesday (May 13, 2015), declined to rule on an injunction filed by Kwaku Kwarteng, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Obuasi West to stop government?s plan to set up an Interconnect Clearing House (ICH) to stop massive fraud in the Ghanaian telecom sector.

Interconnect Clearing House

The Accra Commercial High ordered for a full trial in the matter and failed to rule on the injunction application. According to indications, this means that the National Communications Authority (NCA) can go ahead with its scheduled timeline to complete setting up the ICH system.

A Lawyer for the NCA Dennis Adjie Dwumor says the NCA will go ahead and implement the ICH, ?We believe strongly the NCA will still proceed with it and go ahead with the implementation of the ICH,? he said on the sidelines after the court?s decision.

The ICH which is a central monitoring systems that will force all the telecom service providers to connect their calling gateways to, to ensure that the government can monitor and track the exact quantum of international calls coming into and going out of Ghana for government to be able to properly quantify revenues due it from these calls.

Mr. Kwateng who filed the lawsuit together with one Elijah Adansi-Bonah, a Director of an obscure policy research organization, described the ICH as ?unlawful and unnecessary.?

They contended the ICH was an ?unconstitutional? interference in the communication rights of all telecommunications service subscribers, saying that while subscribers have standard agreements with the telcos to transmit their communication, they have no such agreement with any ICH operator.

Earlier, groups linked to telecom operators and the opposition NPP had vehemently opposed the setting up of the ICH. One of such vocal groups is Occupy Ghana which mounted a feverish campaign to oppose the ICH, despite government?s argument that the ICH was being set up to stop a multimillion dollar racket in the telecom sector where operators, their agents and fraudsters freely pocket revenue from the international call gateway meant for the government.

The absence of the ICH has been blamed on the notorious SIM-Box fraud that bleeds the governments of millions of tax revenues from international calls monthly.

SIM-Box fraudsters are usually composed of individuals with high expertise in the telecom sector who have discovered a loophole in Ghana?s international call gateway and have illegally imported sophisticated equipment to intercept international calls and pocket the massive revenues accrued from these calls.

This phenomenon recently forced the government to consider the ICH.

??we are currently not convinced that the process of developing and implementing the ICH policy has been thoroughly thought through as yet?.Occupy Ghana believes that the engagement of the ICH potentially runs contrary to the legal regime governing interconnection since the law makes no room for a centralized ICH,? Occupy Ghana stated in a recent press release to oppose the project.

The group?s protest has been pointed out by critics as being  selfish because apparently, according to information gathered by the Republic Newspaper, some telecom operators had allegedly hired groups such as Occupy Ghana and some journalists to oppose the ICH because the stand to lose a lot of illegal revenues.

Also, recently, of one of the members of Occupy Ghana, Dr. Alexander Tweneboa-The former President of the Ghana Real Estate Developers? Association (GREDA), was caught engaging in illegal SIM-box operations.

Occupy Ghana has denied Dr. Tweneboa being part of their members,  but close sources to the group have disclosed to this paper that indeed, the busted  SIM-box fraudster was  indeed a member of Occupy Ghana.

The Republic Newspaper recently intercepted a report prepared by international accounting firm Deloitte and Touche, indicting local telecom operators for hiding their true profits from the State in a bid to avoid paying government its due revenues from telecom operations in the country.

Similar to evasive strategies adopted by the notorious SIM-box fraudsters, the Deloitte report prepared in 2013 revealed that in that year, all five (5) networks operating then, had intentionally charged international call fees way below the legal rates of $0.19 stipulated by the National Communications Authority (NCA) in an attempt to underpay the government on millions of dollars of revenues due it.

The telecom regulator is said to have used the Deloitte and Touche report to invoke its powers to force these operators to pay fully the fees they attempted to spirit away on the blindside of government.

Information available to this paper indicates that Vodafone is the worst culprit; forced to pay a total of approximately US$ 20.46 million in 2013 including a 1% regulatory fee to NCA and revenues accrued from International calls. MTN comes closely in the heels of Vodafone, having been forced to cough out about US$19.87 million in revenues that would otherwise have been hidden from government.

Airtel constitutes mid level in this act, as it was forced to spill US$ 2.78 million in regulatory fees and revenues accrued from international calls. Incidentally, Tigo and Expresso are the ??small fries?? in the ??game?? as they only coughed up US$258,452 and US$46,685 respectively.

Source: The Republic

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