The CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Ken Ashigbe has said that the ‘under-declaration of revenue’ allegation by the Minister of Communications against telecom operators in the country borders on criminality and yet no evidence has been provided to support it.
He was responding to allegations by the Minister, Ursula Owusu Ekuful that between 2015 and first quarter 2017, government lost a whopping GHC470 million in communication service taxes (CST) due to “potential under-declaration of revenue” by the telcos over that period.
The Minister told Parliament that the Common Platform (CP), which was implemented in late 2017 to police telcos’ revenue flow in real time for the purposes of government’s tax revenue assurance, detected that the loss occurred because of the absence of the CP over that period.
She said that to convince Parliament that the US$89 million-dollar contract awarded KelniGVG to establish and operate the CP for five years.
The Minister said, between 2017 and now, the CP has helped government to realised some Ghc1.5 billion in taxes from the telcos, which would have been lost if not for the CP.
But Ken Ashigbe said the Minister’s claim meant telcos are deliberate evading taxes, which is criminal and yet the Minister has failed to show evidence of her claim, and no telco has been engaged and or prosecuted for that.
He noted that telcos are partners on the CP, which is managed by the National Communications Authority (NCA) and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), and they are in contact engagement with the two bodies and or their assigned auditors, but none of them has raised any issue about under declaration of revenue, much less tax evasion.
The Telecoms Chamber CEO said none of the telcos is privy to any report generated by the CP, pointing to under declarations of revenue by any telco, and yet the Minister made that allegation at a press in November 2019 and has repeated it on the floor of Parliament “which is a house of records”.
Ken Ashigbe said the first time the Minister made the allegation, telcos reached out to the Minisry, NCA and GRA to provide a copy of the said report but it was never done.
“This time she said it in Parliament which is a house of records so we are also going to have our day in Parliament and have our say.
“The unfounded allegations by the Minister are very damaging to the reputation of our members (telcos”) so we are not taking this matter lightly at all,” he said.
Asked whether telcos would consider resorting to the law courts to demand evidence from the Minister’s, Ken Ashigbe said they are confident Parliament to address the matter well and there would not be the need to go to court.
He then explained that telco cannot and would not engage in under declaration of revenue because it is not in their interest and that of the telco CEOs to do so.
“The bonuses of the CEO and even the staff are linked to the revenue generated, so if you under-declare revenue, you do so at your own risk,” he said.
He noted that on the contrary, telcos have remained the biggest taxpayers in the country for years, and MTN in particular, has won the GRA’s annual taxpayer of the year award repeatedly for many years.
Ken Ashigbe noted that telcos are in Ghana to drive economic development, and they have showed that commitment in providing millions of direct and indirect jobs, enabling thousands of businesses and key sectors in the country and also religiously meeting their tax obligations.