Parliament is finally making a demand on Minister-designate for Communications and Digitization, Ursula Owusu Ekuful to provide hard evidence of her repeated claim that government saved some GHC1.1 billion in tax revenue since Kelni GVG took over the real time monitoring of telecoms revenue flow.
The approval of her nomination as Minister has therefore been put on hold, so she will reappear before the Appointments Committee of Parliament provide the much needed evidence of her repeated claim among other things.
The Minister-designate, who was then Minister of Communications, under whose watch Kelni GVG was given the US$89 million five year contract, has for many months now been claiming, without showing evidence, that through the work of Kelni GVG, government discovered telcos hid over GHC400 million in taxes from the state, between 2015 and first quarter 2017.
She also said that since the intervention of Kelni GVG, government has saved GHC1.1 billion, which would have been lost to the state.
The Minister has repeated this claim several times in media engagements, industry forums, even on the floor of Parliament, and recently during her vetting for the position of Communication and Digitization Minister without giving a single report to show as evidence.
Telecom operators in the country, represented by the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications (GCT), have openly and flatly denied her claim, stating that in all their engagements with the tax collector, Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), no evidence of tax evasion has been showed to them and no telco has been engaged with evidence of any tax evasion.
Indeed, the telcos said they are partners on the common monitoring platform, which is currently run by Kelni GVG, and as partners, they are yet to see any report that supports the claim of the minister.
The telcos have also said, apart from the usual organic increases they have witnessed in the taxes they pay to government annually, no significant increase has been recorded since the intervention of Kelni GVG.
The telcos expressed worry that comments like that of the minister worry their investors, particularly when she makes the comment repeatedly without any evidence and without engaging the any telco with the details, which creates the impression that all telcos are culpable.
Indeed, GRA has itself come out to say they have not engaged any telco on the specific claims of Ursula Owusu.
The GRA Commissioner-General, Amishadai Owusu-Ansah sounded quite flat about the claims of the minister when confronted with the question of when the GRA intends to go after the culpable telcos and collect the money the minister had so repeatedly claimed they hid from the state.
The Telecoms Chamber did point out that since Parliament is a house of records, they were going to engage Parliament to demand the evidence from the Minister.
Finally, Parliament is demanding for the evidence and the Minister would be expected to provide it to the Appointments Committee on her second appearance.
Meanwhile, apart from Kelni GVG issues, the Committee is also asking the Minister for further and better particulars on other issues related to her work over the last four years.
The other issues, as stated in the report of the Minority side of the Committee are as follows:
a) The nominee is required to provide further clarification on the criteria used for the closure of radio stations across the country.
b) The nominee is expected to respond to empirical concerns on the apparent discrimination against a certain category of radio stations during the audit and closures of the stations.
c) The appointee must respond to lingering concerns about the seeming lack of sincerity in her apology to NDC MPs when she accused the group of taking leave of their senses in 2020.