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General News of Saturday, 22 September 2018

Source: Myjoyonline.com

StarTimes Saga: Minority MPs reject Communication Ministry's assurances

Minority parliamentarians have rejected assurances by the Communications Ministry that it will not hand over the country's digital migration platform to Chinese firm Startimes.

They insist the deal smacks of corruption.

Communications Minister Ursula Ekuful Owusu in a statement said the public is confusing issues on the digital infrastructure and its satellite programme to extend digital TV to 300 communities which Startimes is actually running.

The minister said she will work with various industry stakeholders to ensure a cost-effective digital infrastructure is built.

Her assurance comes after her deputy George Andah had said an agreement with StarTimes is a condition for Ghana to secure a $19 billion loan from the China EXIM bank.

Mr Andah said, “we did not intend to sign any such contract, [and] we will not sign any such contract.”

The Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) has raised concerns over the involvement of StarTimes in the project which has been built by a local firm, K-Net.

According to GIBA, StarTimes has already set up a pay-TV in Ghana, therefore allowing them to handle the entire DTT infrastructure would threaten Ghana’s security and independence.

The National Democratic Congress’ Ras Mubarak insists that the involvement of StarTimes in the entire process s is suspicious.

“The Ministry is trying to find a way out of a mess they have created... there’s clearly no transparency in the entire exercise.

“The response from the ministry clearly cannot be classified as satisfactory. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions and we would want the ministry to meet the Committee as soon as possible to lay bare the facts,” he said.

The Kunbungu MP believes there is an element of conflict of interest in the deal.

“When you have StartTimes sponsoring the First Lady’s foundation and this is the company that is going to be given this amount of job. Then you clearly wonder whether there is any iota of seriousness in being transparent with Ghanaians in fighting corruption,” he said.

He wondered why the deal has not passed through Parliamentary Committee with oversight over the Ministry of Communication.

Ras Mubarak said although the deal was mentioned briefly, the ministry is yet to come back with official details on it.

“It goes to show you the levels of disrespect that the ministry is exhibiting towards even the Committee that has oversight responsibility for it.

“What is government hiding from the people,” he queried.