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General News of Friday, 1 June 2018


NPP MPs abandon Ursula in Parliament over controversial $89m Kelni GVG contract

At a seminal moment in Parliament where the Communications Minister mounted a defense of the controversial $89m telcom revenue monitoring contract, some key figures to back the deal were missing in action.

Chairman of the Communications Committee of Parliament and tough-talker Kennedy Agyapong refused to speak, running against a convention where in matters of controversy, the opinion of a committee chair is prized.

Pressure from the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) MPs to have the experienced Assin Central MP speak failed. He remained silent as the Majority MPs watched the minister go almost solo.

The Assin Central MP is reported to have said, he had arranged for some Indian businessmen to be given the contract which eventually went to Kelni GVG.

Joy News' reporter Paa Kwesi Parker-Wilson reported Kennedy Agyapong left the chamber of Parliament moments later without a public endorsement of the deal, which has seen the government rally its machinery against opposition from pro-telecommunication figures.

Kennedy Agyapong's deputy on the Committee and Saboba New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP Charles Binipom Bintim was also absent during the debate, an observation made by Minority MP Sam George who represents the Ningo-Prampram constituency.

"Yesterday was a sad day for government," he told host of Joy FM's Top Story Thursday. The NDC MP said it was a struggle to find four NPP MPs to defend the deal on the floor of Parliament.

Joy News reporter Parker-Wilson who confirmed the observation said the presence of NPP MPs was as clear as their absent voices when it mattered most.

The Majority leader Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu; Deputy Communications Minister and Awutu Senya West MP George Andah; Efutu MP Alexander Afenyo-Markin and Suhum MP Frederick Opare-Ansah were the only NPP MPs to speak.

In the case of Opare-Ansah, he was given the opportunity to speak twice, Parker-Wilson said.

The Minority MPs are late to the debate over the $89m Kelni GVG contract as opposition to the deal began from IMANI, a policy think-tank whose president Franklin Cudjoe has engaged government in running radio battles.

But on the floor of Parliament, the NDC MPs including Sam George added their voice to civil society opposition. He called the deal vitiated by fraud.

The Communications Minister Ursula Owusu offered her reputation as an assurance against corruption, which the government say its critics are trying hard to brand it.

"I can never, never be a party to any such conduct as I value my reputation and the reputation of the government that serves the good people of Ghana," NPP MP for Ablekuma West said.

"There has been absolutely no corruption or underhand dealings in this transaction," she charged.

The revenue assurance contract to Kelni GVG is based on a law which mandates government to independently verify the taxes telcos pays to government.

To do this, government needs to know the call traffic volumes by connecting to the nodes inside the telcos. Knowing this allows government to determine if the taxes telcos payments are accurate.

Before this system of independent verification, government had to make do with call records that telcos submits to the regulator, the National Communications Authority says.

The Communications Minister has been emphatic, this arrangement is not good enough and serves the interest of telcos who may manipulate the data to pay lower taxes.

She has stated her determination to enforce the law fully despite resistance from some telcos. She expressed this determination in Parliament by singing a Hymn titled "Who is on the Lord's Side"quoting Exodus 32:26 when Israel's leader Moses asked for support in a time of difficulty.

The Majority, present but largely silent, listened her sing a roll call song for support.