Monday, 25 August 2008

GT: Poor management or political machinations?

It’s over now. The tag of war over government’s decision to sell off 70% stake in the state owned Ghana Telecom to British company Vodafone plc. Ghana Telecom, according to government, has been an economic liability and something drastic ought to be done to savage it from that position. We were also informed that government rather needed badly, foreign exchange inflows that a non-ratification of the deal would have proven disastrous.

It is the second reason rather than the first that sent government down the market in search of a buyer to shoulder the battered image of GT. Vodafone plc, according to sources, was drafted into the bid because they were willing to offer the $900 million desperately needed to save GT. Then the controversy began- first from the minority members of parliament who described the amount as highly unacceptable especially at the time that the fibre optics network had been lashed into the deal. Government had also made a number of concessions including absorbing all debts and paying for worker lay-offs.

The minority also chided government over the non transparent manner of the process, wondering why government settled on Vodafone when better deals were proposed by initial bidders from France and Portugal, and subsequently South Africa Telekom. Details of the agreement indicate that Vodafone officials are absolved from any mismanagement that may arise from the deal. Again, government which took a 30% share from the deal would have to pay off the over two thousand workers whose jobs will be gone.

President Kufour has had occasion to question the General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Kofi Asamoah’s opposition to the sale, saying Mr. Asamoah has not properly informed himself about the process. Speaking at the Union’s congress in Kumasi, Mr. Kufour advised the General Secretary to listen to the call by the GT workers across the country, who have fully endorsed government’s decision.

Apart from the main opposition parties that raised their voices against the sale, Pressure groups and individuals also joined the opposition. Notable among them were the ruling party’s Member of Parliament for Okere constituency in the Eastern Region Bradford Daniel Kwame Edu. Ahead of the parliamentary debate over the sale, Mr. Edu questioned the rationale behind the sale. He noted that the value of $900 million Vodafone plc has offered is too low, adding that the deal is not in anybody’s interested.

“I’m against the deal on the point that the value is not good, it’s not in favour of the nation,” he said. “I’m a businessman and I know the worth of GT.”

According to the MP members of his constituency are totally opposed to the sale of the company and he fully supports them in that respect. He said even the timing of the sale is wrong because “selling at the bad time you get a bad deal.”

Mr. Kwame Edu also expressed surprise about the endorsement from senior management members of GT especially the Chief Executive Officer Dickson Oduro-Nyaning who has categorically stated that the company should be handed over to Vodafone because “they have competent staff to revive the company.”

“What were we doing when they (management) were mismanaging it,” the MP wondered.
Another senior staff who has consistently supported the sale of the company, and raising questions about the competency of the GT management is Head of Corporate Affairs, Albert Don Chebe. He told the BBC’s Stephen Evans, host of ‘Business Daily’ that national politics is behind the numerous agitation been waged by those opposed to the sale.

“We are four months away from a very important elections, an election which the main opposition party believes it has a good chance of winning therefore it’s part of a strategy of all the opposition parties to try and get all the attention they can get, and it appears the Vodafone deal is a good opportunity to oppose and show how nationalistic, how anti imperialist some of these parties are.”

“This journey has been traveled before. It’s always understood that government cannot run telecommunication companies. And telecommunication business is global and international. Privatised telecom companies are better suited to brisk business, profitable and efficiently than government run telecommunication companies,” he said as an answer to a question on the wisdom in privatising a national asset that provides fixed line service to an entire population.

But Dr. Steve Manteaw is a member of the group, Concern Citizens against the sale of Ghana Telecom, told Stephen Evans the process lacks transparency.

“People are not too clear in terms of what is happening and there hasn’t been much transparency and public disclosure of the terms of the contract. We’ve been able to lay hands on the contract and we are convinced the terms will not be in the interest of Ghana; it’s bad and skewed to the disadvantage of Ghana.”

By Nii Kwaku Osabutey ANNY

No comments: