Ursula Owusu Buys AirtelTigo  US$25 Million  Without Parliamentary Approval; Workers Left In Uncertainty  

Ursula Owusu-Ekuful Ursula Owusu-Ekuful

The Deputy Ranking Member on Parliament's Communications Committee, Samuel Nartey George, has asked the Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, to provide more details on the government's takeover of telecommunications firm, AirtelTigo.

There are reports that Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, is in the process of paying the parent companies of AirtelTigo, Bharti Airtel Ghana Holdings B.V. and MIC Africa B.V some U$25 million on behalf of Ghanaian taxpayers, having concluded negotiations and signed an agreement to transfer the shares of the company to Ghana.

The agreement transferred all customers, assets, and agreed liabilities of AirtelTigo to the Government of Ghana.

But Mr George, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ningo Prampram, is asking the Akufo-Addo government to come clean on the agreement.

"I believe that the Minister of Communications must give us more details. She must give us the true state of AirtelTigo. She must give us a plan on what they are going to do with that asset," he said to CITI FM.

The Ningo Prampram legislator, was also skeptical about the government's ability to manage AirtelTigo, given its poor track record in handling the private enterprises it has acquired so far.

"Government used to have 30 percent shares in Airtel but the government failed to make the capital injection into Airtel. And as of 2018, when Airtel appeared before the parliamentary committee, they told us the government's 30 percent had been revalued to 3 percent because of the failure to do investment. Government has shares in Vodafone. Vodafone is also complaining that the government is not making the requisite investment."

"How is it possible that a government that is not able to make an investment for a 30 percent holding in an entity will get the requisite capital to buy a whole network to do the requisite investment and run it well?" Sam George asked.

AirtelTigo, serves around 5.1 million subscribers and offers direct and indirect employment opportunities to almost 10,000 people.

Mr George, has since followed up with a statement in which he said "My attention has been drawn to news reports citing the Honourable Minister for Communications indicating the acquisition of AirtelTigo from Bharti Airtel for a total sum of US$25 million".

He added that "I side with most Ghanaians who are requesting for assurances that the fate of AirtelTigo will not be similar to most government parastatals, underpinned by negligence, inefficiency and drastic financial meltdown. Quite clearly the bedrock relevance of ICT to the transformation of Ghana's economic development agenda cannot be overemphasized as evident from the recent global epidemic".

According to him, he is "convinced that with a clear and concrete strategy driven by professionals and support by regulatory congruence, AirtelTigo can be turned around to enhance healthy competition within the ICT industry to the ultimate benefit of Ghanaians".

To him, it is "unfortunately the circumstances leading to, the actions emanating thereafter and the plan of action for a quick revamp of AirtelTigo has been confusing, shrouded in secrecy and sometimes contradictory. This development is rather unfortunate as we would expect transparency in such a major development that has economic and financial implications for the Ghanaians people".

"As Deputy Ranking Member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications, I have indicated to Leadership my intention to as a matter of urgency call for an emergency meeting between the Committee and the Ministry to get a thorough and detailed briefing on the modalities of the alleged purchase, the economic state of AirtelTigo, issues regarding the status and welfare of Ghanaian workers of AirtelTigo and to understand the intention of the Ministry with regards the long term plans for the company".

"These calls are borne out of a need for Ghanaians to get an understanding of the transaction and for Parliament to exercise its oversight responsibility. My position is fortified by the provisions of Article 103(3) of the 1992 Constitution which states;

"Committees of Parliament shall be charged with such functions, including the investigation and inquiry into the activities and administration of ministries and departments as parliament may determine; and such investigation and inquiries may extend to proposals for legislation."

It is, therefore, his "hope that the Ministry would cooperate with the Committee as we carry out our mandate in the public interest and in line with global best practices of accountability".

Source: theheraldghana.com