Policy analysis think-tank IMANI Ghana has revealed that the processes leading to the award of a monopoly licence to Afriwave Telecom Ghana Limited to operate the controversial interconnect clearing house for telecom companies is riddled with fraud.
According to a statement by IMANI, the Application Evaluations Committee that looked into the capabilities of five companies that had put in bids to manage the Interconnect Clearing House (ICH) platform rigged the process in favour of Afriwave. The companies are Afriwave, Subah Infosolutions, Prodigy International Limited, TCMS-GVG Consortium Limited and Channel IT Ghana Limited.
At the end of the bidding process, Afriwave was handed the golden spoon and IMANI suspects serious foul play.
“This whole process was rigged to guarantee a perverted outcome that can be seen from the remarks of the panel in various parts of the report,” IMANI alleged, adding, “The panel manipulated its own scoring scheme to ensure that Afriwave came on top, regardless of the actual results, and they did so with a brazenness that is almost farcical.”
IMANI alleged that the Albert E. Enninful eight-member panel instituted by the telecom regulator, National Communications Authority (NCA), had admitted that they had insufficient information to make informed judgements about the financials of most tenders and wondered what informed the total points awarded under debt and equity.
It says the entire process that awarded the prized contract to Afriwave should be scrapped and a new one initiated to mitigate the alleged fraud.
As a way forward, the think-tank posited that “Now that there is ample documentary evidence of fraudulent manipulation of the tender results, IMANI feels highly justified in resurrecting its campaign against the current ICH policy, and to reiterate its two demands.
“There is completely no basis to impose a monopoly clearing house on the telecom industry. The ministry should re-open the tender and provide adequate time for best practices to be followed in the evaluation of bids. It should then award three licences for providers of interconnect clearance house services.”
Free To Decide
IMANI said if that was done, “the telecom industry should then be free to decide which clearing house provider to patronise and whether to patronise any at all, at least for the next five years whilst the clearing houses build track record and capacity.”
Foisting what it called ‘untested monopolies’ on the private sector “shall add little value and destroy a vital industry.” The group urged President Mahama and the Minister of Communications, Dr Edward Omane Boamah, to act without delay “to redeem the credibility of this whole process.”
Looking at what may be described as padding of scores, IMANI queried, “With a score of 0 on equity, how did Afriwave score more than 75% of the points available on debt equity ratio? Why was the final report of the committee not vetted by the NCA for accuracy and consistency of the computations and conclusions arrived at?”
According to IMANI, Afriwave was awarded five marks in a section where the total available marks was ‘1’, saying, “this is the part where the applicants were to show that their ‘operational support team’ for the planned undertaking was up to scratch by presenting their CVs.”
According to the statement, Subah Infosolutions, which also put in a bid, won all the two points available in the ‘Project Implementation Team’ sub-score, compared to Afriwave’s score of 1 and that it was highly irregular for Afriwave to have been declared as having a superior ‘operational support team’, given how interlinked the two requirements are.
“Despite the ‘equipment identity register’ sub-score having a maximum score of 1, Afriwave was awarded 4 marks against Subah’s 1. Despite evidence of Telco Interconnections having a maximum sub-score of 2, Afriwave was awarded 4 marks,” IMANI said.
The think-tank further said that despite ‘topology scalability’ having a maximum sub-score of 1, Afriwave was awarded 2 marks, adding, “likewise, the requirement to provide a critical bill of quantity could only be scored a maximum of 1; yet, here too, Afriwave was given 2 marks.”
IMANI is of the view that Afriwave was awarded as much as 11 extra points for technical performance it could not have demonstrated since the ratings were above the maximum allowed, observing, “The scoring was a mathematical impossibility.”
Demonstrating its claims in a tabular form, IMANI said that whereas Subah’s scores were consistent with the maximum attainable, Afriwave’s scores exceeded the maximum attainable for the mentioned criteria, raising questions about collusion and favouritism.
“Assuming that Afriwave had the maximum attainable for the criteria, it should attain a total score of 6. Rather, it obtained an additional 11 points culminating in a total of 17 points.”
The statement noted that subtracting what it called “the fictitious 11 points from the total score of 78.2 reported for Afriwave Telecom Ghana Limited leaves the final score at 67.2, which is lower than the reported score of 72.7 for Subah Infosolutions.”
In IMANI’s assessment, there were no visits whatsoever to any of the applicants’ operational locations or premises to ascertain their existing capacity; and there were also no client references or testimonials of previous work done in the clearing and general telecom intermediation space.
It also said some of the criteria were blunt instruments of no real relevance to the assessment, explaining for instance that the panel’s idea of preventing ‘conflict of interest’ was to penalise any applicant who might already have a licence with the NCA without regard to the broad range of licences issued by the NCA.
By William Yaw Owusu