Telcos debunk Minister’s hidden revenue allegation, demand proof

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Telecom operators in the country are once again challenging the Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu Ekuful to provide the documented evidence of her claim that telcos attempted to hide Ghc1.5 billion tax revenue from the state.

The Minister told Parliament today that the Common Monitory Platform (CMP) government put on place in 2017, detected that between 2015 and first quarter of 2017, the telcos succeeded in hiding a whopping GHC470 million from the state because there was no independent platform like the CMP to monitor their revenue flows in real time.

She said that, added to other revenue loss channels such as simbox fraud and mobile money taxes, meant the implementation of the CMP saved the country Ghc1.5billion between 2017 and now.

Meanwhile, in November last year, the Minister claimed the CMP detected that telcos hid GHC300 million between 2015 and first quarter of 2017, but this time round she said the figure is GHC470 million.

She however did not provide evidence then and still has not provided evidence of the current claim.

The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications (GCT), which speaks for the telcos, wrote then and said they had not been showed any evidence or CMP Report proving the Minister’s allegation, even though the Minister claimed there is a report.

The Chambers CEO, Ken Edem Ashigbe said their stance from last year has not changed, because till date the tax collector, Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and industry regulator, National Communications Authority (NCA) are yet to respond to the Chamber’s request for evidence (CMP Report) proving the Minister’s claim.

“The letter we wrote since the November 2019 has not been responded to and we are still awaiting their response – we are still waiting for the report from any of the agencies (NCA and GRA) if it actually exist.

“We insist that we are very law-abiding organizations, who take our tax obligations very seriously and we have not been involved in any tax under-declaration or tax fraud,” he wrote.

On Simbox fraud, Ken Ashigbe said telcos have been working on busting simbox fraud for a long time and continue to collaborate with the state agencies to get it minimized, if not eliminated, because telcos even lose more money than the state.

“We still hold the position that 19 cents surcharge results in an arbitrage that also encourages sim boxing, so our recommendation is that we should make the $0.06 paid to the government from the $0.19 surcharge on international incoming traffic as a percentage of the revenue, ie 31.58% instead of a fixed charge, and allow the players to peg their own price,” he said.

Ken Ashigbe said their position on what the Minister told Parliament today is the same as their position when she first made the GHC300 million hidden revenue allegation.

At the time, he made the point that telcos are partners on the CMP so it is strange how they never saw any report as partners and yet the Minister keeps citing a supposed CMP Report to make allegation of fraud against telcos.

Indeed, the Minister had also claimed that the GRA was engaging the respective telcos on the hidden revenue matter, but the telcos deny any engagement by GRA on any such matter.

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