Contrary to a recent threat by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to close down the offices of its debtors, including telcos, on Monday until they paid their debts, a court document available to ADOMBUSINESS indicate AMA is rather indebted to the telcos.
AMA had claimed in a letter dated August 13, 2013 some ministries, departments, agencies and public institutions, as well as telcos were in default of business operating permits and property rates to the tune of over GHC3.5million between 2008 and 2012.
Whereas it is not clear whether the public institutions listed indeed owed AMA or not, a default judgment granted by an Accra High Court, presided over by His Lordship, Justice Oppong on January 11, 2012, in favor of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, clearly indicated that the AMA rather owed the telcos GHC1,500 in legal cost, plus a refund of all arbitrary charges the AMA had made on the telcos from January 9, 2009 till date, with interest.
The Telecom Chamber had gone to court to, among other things, challenge arbitrary BOP charges by AMA and prayed the court to enforce only charges approved by the National Communication Authority (NCA).
The Telecoms Chamber duly obtained a default judgment in its favor because AMA failed to file a defence; and the court granted all the reliefs the Telecoms Chamber sought, including a refund of all money telcos have paid to the AMA between January 2009 and January 2012.
The court also ruled that the AMA could alternatively give credit notes to the telcos to offset future payment of BOP and property rates.
Whereas the telcos have not bothered to chase the AMA for neither the refund nor the alternative credit notes, nor the legal cost of GHC1,500, the AMA is rather demanding an “imaginary” debt from the telcos and threatening to close telcos offices down.
Indeed, as part of the reliefs granted to the Telecoms Chamber in court, the AMA was prohibited from charging telcos BOP outside of what the NCA had approved, and it was also prohibited from doing anything to compel telcos to pay anything beyond what NCA has approved.
Indeed, Section 95 of the Electronic Communication Act, Act 775 indicate that District Assemblies could only impose rates on telcos with the approval of the NCA.
And the NCA’s approved fees for the period 2010 and 2012 ranged between GHC200 and GHC1,000 for all Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assembly, depending on the number of towers in question. The same fee levels have also been approved for the period 2013 – 2014, with a promise of a 10% upward adjustment in 2015 and a further review every five years.
The court also ordered the AMA never to levy any rates on telecom towers, stop charging advertising rates on telcos’ logos on the office buildings of the telcos; and branding rates on logos on vehicles of telcos and on billboards that advertising agencies would have already paid advertising fees for.
In the light of the ruling and the reliefs granted the Telecoms Chamber, AMA’s recent demand for debts and threat to close down telcos offices could amount to contempt of court.
Meanwhile the AMA’s Director of Finance, Samuel Aryee was reported to have insisted that the ruling the Telecoms Chamber obtained takes effect from January 2013, even though the ruling clearly states the AMA should refund moneys paid to it by telcos from January 2009 till January 2012.