By Pascal Kafu Abotsi ([email protected])
Yesterday, the National Communications Authority’s (NCA) hurriedly-organised press conference, which was apparently to cover up its fraudulent engagement in the award of the Interconnect Clearing House (ICH) contract to Afriwave Telecom, has instead, exposed the media regulatory body to public ridicule.
The ICH contract is primarily hinged on revenue assurance, where international calls would be monitored to ensure that the taxes accrued correlate with the air time spent. And in this undertaking, Afriwave is expected to generate at least one billion United States Dollars over the next 10 years.
A document, a copy of which is in the possession of The Chronicle, shows that the selection process for the award of the ICH contract was fraught with rigging and this means that Afriwave Telecom shouldn’t have won the bid. For example, page 32 of the report put the company’s financial strength in doubt.
Policy Think tank, Imani Ghana, further exposed the nefarious activities of the NCA, with its revelation that the scores awarded all the competing companies in three main categories– Legal &Management, Technical Capabilities and Financial Capabilities–indicated that Afriwave Telecom scored more than the maximum awarded marks.
According to Imani Ghana, “the panel manipulated its own scoring scheme to ensure that Afriwave came on top, regardless of the actual results and they did so with brazenness that is almost farcical.”
“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? IMANI queried.
But the NCA would not agree more with the report which had generated heat within the public sphere, as it regarded it as a draft. According to the Authority, in the preparation of the report, it transposed the scores in the course of transferring the document from Excel to Microsoft Word.
At its image-saving session with the media in Accra, contradictory explanations popped up, which made it quite difficult for the NCA officials to offer tangible reasons to situate Afriwave in the context of convincingly winning the bid. The so-called transpositional errors the NCA said were responsible for their current ‘tragedy’ could not be accounted for.
Apart from seeking the permission of the Ministry of Communications to prove that there was no fraud, the best the NCA officials did was to keep dancing around the questions thrown at them. They, as well, fumed with rage and intermittently queried the authenticity of the document, as if that would cow the members of the inky fraternity into submission.
Repetitively stressing their pursuit to put the matter to rest once and for all, they resorted to the employment of a denial arsenal. They said they were oblivious of the very document which had been duly signed by all panel members, with the subsequent approval of the Board Chairman of the NCA, Mr. Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie.
In what could clearly do for a disorganised session as it got murkier, particularly during the question and answer aspect, most of the NCA officials were heard screaming: “That is not our document…we cannot answer questions on what we are not responsible for…the authentic document is what the NCA has, not what is out there.”
Not even a carefully designed declarative question from a reporter of Accra-based Adom Fm, Samuel Dowoena: “Does the document in the public domain exist?”, would elicit a direct response from the Chairman of the Application Evaluation Panel (AEP), Mr. Albert Enninful. He chose to say: “I can’t speak to the document the public has; I can only speak to the document we (NCA) have.”
Another journalist, quoting page 11 of the document, who questioned the award of marks to Afriwave, which had exceeded the maximum score, was received with a draconian reaction : “The page you are reading, has it been signed?…that means it cannot be a true document.” And that was the secretary to the Application Evaluation Panel, Mr. Edmund Fiako.
The Director-General of the National Communications Authority, Mr. William Matthew Tevie pleaded with the public to retain its confidence in the integrity of his outfit. He argued that Afriwave had partnered with Huawei Technologies, Meucci Solutions and Laurasia Associates, which made them genuinely win the bid. He further stated that the company’s partners were with international repute and could not be doubted.
“In the case of the eventual winner, Afriwave Telecom partnered with Huawei Technologies, Meucci Solutions and Laurasia Associates. This partnership was evident by letters of commitment and agreements.”
Mr. Tevie disclosed the NCA’s intension to launch an extensive investigation into the leakage of the very document his subjects claimed did not belong to the regulatory body.
He, in a contrast position, however, did not entirely have qualms with the credibility of the document which had hit public domain, except to say that in this day of technological advancements, the report could have been doctored to satisfy someone’s parochial interest.
Mr. Derrick Appiah, one of the members of the Application Evaluation Panel, mentioned that none of the panel members even had a signed copy of the final report and that there was no way it could get to the public. “We are professionals…we just did our work and that was all. No member of the panel could have leaked the report,” he said, as he sought to protect the integrity of his colleagues.