The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications has refuted allegations of tax fraud levelled against its members by the government.
The Chamber in a press release signed by its Chief Executive Officer, Kenneth Ashigbey said its members which include AirtelTigo, MTN and Vodafone are good corporate citizens who have an exemplary record of tax compliance as well as delivering on all their tax obligations.
The Chamber added that it was also concerned about the repetition of the allegations first made in 2014 by the Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful given that its request for the report detailing the alleged tax misconducts has still not been met.
The press release is in reaction to a response given by Mrs Owusu-Ekuful when she answered questions on the floor of Parliament, Friday, August 7, 2020.
The Minister said the government has made savings of GH¢1.5 billion in under-declared taxes in the telecommunications sector since the implementation of the Common Platform (CP) in 2017.
She said: “The introduction of the CP has uncovered that, prior to the introduction of the policy, GH¢470 million in taxes was lost from potential under-declarations between 2015 to the first quarter of 2017”.
The Minister also added that “an estimated amount of GH¢300 million in taxes was also saved between the first quarter of 2017 to date as a result of the announcement of the implementation of the CP on March 8, 2017.
The Minister also told Parliament that through the deployment of the CP and other fraud management systems, the CP was able to record over 150,000 international calls into the country every month and thereby detecting fraudulent SIMBOXING (bypass fraud) automatically.
This, she said, has saved the country of tax fraud of an additional GH¢327.3 million from the activities of SIM Card fraud since the inception of the CP in 2017.
The Chamber stressed that the mobile industry is deeply concerned about the continuous recurrence of these claims, and the fact that standard audit principles and practice that characterize our members dealings with regulators continue to be breached.
It maintained that best practice “will expect that such findings if indeed were the case will be shared with our members for their response and reconciliation before onward engagement with external parties and the media”.
“We wish to once again, state that these claims although potential and estimated have not been brought to the attention of our members and on the contrary, the ongoing working relationship between the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), National Communications Authority (NCA) and/or their technical partner KelniGVG regarding the Common Platform does not support these allegations,” the release said.
“We have requested since the 19th of November 2019, that this very report detailing these alleged tax misconducts as being espoused by the Ministry be brought to our urgent attention, but this request has not been met till date and our engagements with the Ministry and Regulators over the last nine months has never contained such an agenda for discussion”.
The Chamber also disclosed that SIMBOXING (bypass fraud) financially affects the operations of its members who lose 13 cents for every minute of international calls which bypasses the legitimate international gateways.
It is, therefore, seeking an audience with Parliament through the Select Committee on Communications in the ensuing days to engage them adequately in addressing the allegations which it describes as dire to the telecommunications industry.
“The fraud in question, SIMBOXING (bypass fraud) negatively impacts the network operators and the State, both losing $0.13 and $0.06 respectively for every minute of international calls which bypasses the legitimate international gateways which our members have paid for to operate. We have been working prior to the CP and now with the regulator to minimize the incidence if not eliminate them completely,” the release said.
“To this end, we are humbly entreating the Government to engage with our members and all other industry players on serious reputational issues such as these before conclusions are drawn and same circulated with the public. We reiterate that the effect of no-consultations on serious assertions such as these, is dire to the growth of the mobile industry as it hurts investor confidence and lowers the entire image of the industry before the general public”.