GVG the company that got the tender to supply Potraz with a system for revenue assurance and quality control as they monitor traffic signals is alleged to have been marred with past controversies, and unsettling tech pundits in Zimbabwe.
According to a report published by NewsHawks, the South African based company has got a controversial past marred with allegations of corruption and possible fewar of phone call snooping.
The past revelation has cast a cloud on the trustworthiness and integrity of the company to oversee a national system with potential to also go overboard and abuse monitoring powers and extracting voice signals .
GVG and Potraz have however both denied that do not have access to voice call snooping as they are only tapping into the network layer, where they are accessing data signals , not actual data packets initiated.
A networks engineer however said that this is only subject to network configurations and their jurisdictions where state controlled mobile networks could be giving them access to the full network data, and they choose only to listen to signals.
The Network signals are however transmitted and terminated by separate network hardware which specialises in that area and billing related equipment, which does not necessarily have access to actual data but processes that start and end communication.
GVG however has been reported to have been marred in controversial corruption cases, most of them brought before courts of law, and this has out their credibility at stake.
In December 2017, the Ghanaian government through the ministries of Communication and Finance entered into an US$89 million deal with Kelni GVG Limited, a joint venture between the GVG and a local company, causing an uproar in parliament as there were suspicions of corruption.
The contract was to develop and implement a common platform for traffic monitoring, revenue assurance, mobile money monitoring and fraud management. The contract with Kelnin GVG also sought to deal with revenue losses and simbox fraud involving telecommunication companies.
The contract became a subject of controversy between policy think-tank Imani Africa and the ministry of Communications largely because it was seen as “a careless duplication of jobs and needless drain on the country’s scare resources.”
Imani insisted Subah and Afriwave were awarded similar contracts under the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration to perform similar jobs, even though both contracts were needless. Communications minister Owusu-Ekuful was dragged to parliament several times, where she insisted the deal would help the country to save money as compares to an earlier similar deal with Subah and Afriwave.
Subah also took the government to court challenging the termination of their contract. Writing on the deal, Dr Mawia Zakaria, the executive director of the Institute of Social Research and Development based in Accra, Ghana, said the deal “stinks.”
He said the parliament of Ghana had promulgated several laws under the erstwhile NDC administration to enable the National Communications Authority (NCA) to implement projects that would accrue revenue to the state. The NCA implemented these pieces of legislation through third- party entities as agents. GVG, with Gabby Otchere Darko as a local agent, was the first entity to be engaged in 2010 to implement the International Inbound Traffic Verification (IITV) gateway project.
It was supposed to be a live monitoring of all inbound international traffic and revenue assurance to stopping sim box fraud numbers. At about the same time, Subah Info Solutions was engaged by Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to undertake Domestic Tax Revenue assurance. GVG, according to Zakaria, failed in implementing the project since it only relied on Call Data Records (CDR) provided by the telecommunication companies.
There was a national uproar about the Subah contract spearheaded by the then opposition National Patriotic Party (NPP). After the companies failed to deliver, the NDC government licensed a new entity to implement the interconnect Clearing House (ICH) project.
The NPP however advocated that tax revenue assurance should not be part of the scope of an ICH to keep Subah in business. They insisted that Subah had their mandate from GRA, which fell under the ministry of Finance.
“Today those who ensured that Subah continued with tax revenue assurance are the same people arguing against Subah in the selfish interest of their newly found lover: The GVG Group,” Zakaria wrote.
He said Afriwave Telecom was given a provisional (ICH) licence in June 2015 to build and operate facilities for Clearinghouse services in Ghana before being awarded its final ICH licence in October 2016.
The scope included the provision of interconnect electronic communications routing and reconciliation among mobile network operators, other licensed connecting entities, revenue assurance fro the NCA, SIM box detection, centralised SIM activation and equipment identity register platforms.
“With this mandate Afriwave licence could easily have provided a common platform and leverage on to provide tax revenue assurance to the GRA even at no extra cost to government. Afriwave Telecom, as the ICH provider, could provide this live monitoring for both the NCA and GRA at no cost to the GRA because they would have access to about 20% live interconnect traffic and it will be easy to just add 80% on net traffic,” he said.
Subsequently, the NCA proposed and amended the ICH licence of Afriwave in October 2017 limiting the scope of the ICH licence to provide international and national interconnect traffic routing and reconciliation among mobile network operators (MNOs) and other licenced connecting entities.
Afriwave was therefore asked to stop all other deliverables within the scope of its original licence, in a move seen as opening the door for GVG. Unlike the Afriwave deal under the erstwhile administration, the award of the US$89 million contract to GVG was done silently with no record of open tender.
“But for the exposure of the scandal by Imani, most, Ghanaians wouldn’t have heard a thing about the deal. In fact, the contract had been awarded and payment effected for no work done for some time before Imani exposed the rot,” said Zakaria.