Ghana’s Telecoms Tax Monitoring Platform Goes Live

The scores are in: Kelni-GVG 1 – Ghanaian Taxpayers 0

Finally, the Kelni-GVG partnership has launched the common platform for telecoms monitoring in Ghana. This “news release” confirms it.

Let us read between the lines

A unique real-time international telecommunications monitoring platform for voice and data traffic.

First off, I hate the term real-time. It really gets my goat and also makes me suspicious to the point of being certifiably psychotic.

Increased capabilities in getting accurate view of the telecom data to ensure comprehensive calculation of telecom specific taxes.

Up to now, I have not seen credible reports of Ghanaian operators hiding taxes. It is no wonder we are still unclear as to what problem, exactly, is being addressed.

More than 1.1 M USD monthly savings for the government compared to previous services.

This is some seriously warped logic. Previous services were a mess because they were in the same ballpark of confusion. It is akin to arguing that since Bob was sick and he infected Brian but Brian is doing better now, progress has been made.

A unique system to fight against SIM-box fraud and money laundering.

It seems this does everything except make sense.

A 5 years contract at the end of which the NCA will have the full ownership and management of the Common Platform.

Well, what I hear is a damn fruitful 5-year period for Kelni-GVG, fully sponsored by Ghanaian taxpayer.

The press release of course mentions that the platform was inaugurated By Ghana’s president, no doubt to indicate that it has blessings from the highest office of the land.

It does not stop there.

This platform, unique across the African continent, brings to the Government an independent and transparent view on telecommunications statistics for a better calculation of telecoms taxes and the increase of their collection.

There is nothing unique about it. I could rattle off examples of governments which have been hoodwinked into this type of scheme. Anyway, let us not allow accuracy to get in the way of a good narrative.

Ato Afful, CEO of Kelni-GVG:

For the very first time in Ghana modern history, the government, the GRA and the NCA have full visibility over important sectors of the country’s economy, Telecoms and Mobile Financial Services, and can now regulate and oversee them based on comprehensive data, as opposed to periodic and partial reports and statements

It would appear that this guy and his company are the messiah that Ghana has been waiting for, all along.

It dramatically improves collaboration between the NCA and the industry stakeholders in their ongoing fight against grey traffic and SIM-box fraud which represents a real plague across the African continent, allowing the NCA to efficiently coordinate anti-fraud measures and processes across the industry.

Keyword here is “dramatic”. I am inclined to agree that this whole thing has been quite dramatic – and I would stop there.

It contributes to Ghana’s economic growth, facilitates the development of ITC (sic) thanks to improved quality of international telecommunications (voice & data) and to the development of micro and nano-credit for a better financial inclusion.

Yes indeed.  The moment you throw in the phrase “financial inclusion”, all is forgiven. This is all about helping poor Africans. How charitable.

The Common Platform does not have any access to the content of a communication (voice, SMS contents). It collects the required information to rebuild necessary telecommunications statistics from what we call “signaling” in the telecommunications industry. There is no Personal Data on the CP (The CP does not have the capability to match numbers with names/real persons). Thus the CP is protecting privacy rights of all Ghanaians in conformity to Ghana’s Data Protection Act 2012 (Act 843).

Ghanaians should be so thankful.

Edmund Fianko, Project manager at NCA is quoted saying:

The common platform is a verification system, it does not generate direct revenue.

He got that right – the part about revenue, I mean.

At this point, let us allow the Hon Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communications of Ghana to weigh in:

There was never any intention to infringe on the privacy of citizens communications through the common platform. That was a myth put out by some civil society organizations which led to some law suits against the platform. Their injunction application was thrown out by the High Court.

Hmm… what do they say about roads paved with good intentions?

Our only motivation was to provide an objective means of verifying the information provided by the telcos for tax revenue purposes, in accordance with the law. For the first time in our history, this platform is actually connected to the billing nodes of all the telcos as we speak.

Madam Minister, you can connect anything to anything. That is not an achievement – and that just about sums what has been done in this project.

Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu
Joseph Nderitu is a director at Integrated Risk Services Ltd and specializes in revenue assurance. He previously worked as Head of Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management at Vodacom's operation in Tanzania, having previously served in the same role at Vodacom Mozambique.

Before his work with Vodacom, Joseph was an internal audit manager for Airtel, with responsibility that covered their 17 countries in Africa. Whilst at Airtel, Joseph led reviews of the Revenue Assurance, Customer Service and Sales & Marketing functions.

Prior to his stint at Airtel, Joseph was an RA manager at Safaricom in Kenya. He holds an MSc Degree in Information Systems.