Government sued over GT sale

Thu, 31 Jul 2008 Source: GNA

Accra, July 31, GNA - A group of individuals have instituted civil action against government on its intended sale of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone international.

Mr. Bright Akwetey, solicitor for the plaintiffs, mainly known members of the Convention People's Party (CPP), said the causes of action for the case include recklessly causing financial loss to the state; unlawful disposal of public property; entering into a contract of sale detrimental to the public interest; undervaluing public property for sale to a foreign company; and entering into a public agreement without due process.

He is instituting the action on behalf of Mr Michael Kosi Dedey, Naa Kordai Assimeh, Dr. Nii Moi Thompson, Ms Rhodaline Imoru Ayama, Professor Agyeman Badu Akosah and Mr. Kwame Jantuah.

The relief being sought by the action include revocation of the agreement for the sale of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone international; order for dissolving the enlarged Ghana Telecom Company created for purposes of the sale of Ghana Telecom; restoration of the fibre optic network to Volta River Authority; and order for a true and faithful revaluation of assets of Ghana Telecom.

Government on July 3 announced an agreement with Vodafone, the world's leading mobile telecommunication group, in a partnership deal for 70 per cent of its shares in Ghana Telecom. The Government will retain a 30 per cent stake in Ghana Telecom.

A government statement said an understanding had also been reached with Vodafone to float GT shares on the Ghana Stock market as soon as possible.

"In consideration of this agreement, Ghana Telecom's enterprise value is approximately US$1.3 billion plus a cash injection of US$500 million, totalling US$1.8 billion," the statement said.

It said many benefits would accrue to Ghanaians, including delivery of a superior product and services in every corner of the country, raising GT's mobile market share to provide competitive per minute call charges, efficient service to ensure uninterrupted service to the consumer and injection of substantial investment into the economy. The statement said Vodafone would leverage its experience in over 25 countries and partner networks in an additional 42 countries with over 260 million customers worldwide to provide the best service in telecommunication to Ghanaians.

The transaction is, however, subject to approval by Parliament which rose without debating the agreement that has been criticised by several politicians and civil society groups.

The Committee for Joint Action (CJA) has expressed its opposition to government's intention to sell 70 percent of Ghana Telecom (GT) to Vodafone International Holdings B.V. for US$900 million without regard to national economic, political and strategic interest.

The group said the transaction was being carried out in such haste as to deny Ghanaians the opportunity to discuss its full significance. Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a member of CJA, said the sale of GT had been justified by false claim by government that Ghanaians did not have the expertise to manage the company.

Mr Ablakwa said the government had not told Ghanaians the whole truth about transaction, adding that assets of GT were made up of GT fixed lines and carriers services, Onetouch Mobile Services, SAT 3-Fibre-optic gateway and exZeed call services.

He said in addition, the government was handing over the fibre-optic network of the Volta River Authority and the National Fibre-Optic Backbone, which was not yet completed and was financed with a Chinese loan.

Mr Ablakwa said by this transaction, Vodafone would become a private monopoly in the fixed line business and the biggest telecom player in Ghana.

Parliament is to be recalled in two weeks to debate the agreement, which has generated heated arguments in the House between the government side and minority parties.

The Ghana Trades Union (GTUC) has also called on government to withdraw the proposed sale/purchase agreement before Parliament. The GTUC in a statement signed in Accra by Acting Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Asamoah called on government to subject the proposed agreement to broad public debate and consultations on available options.

"Ghana TUC wishes to express its concern about the sale of GT shares, not only because of its implications for the potential job losses but, more importantly, because GT is a strategic national asset and, like other state assets, government should not offer GT shares for sale as if GT was created solely for financial gains without any consideration whatsoever for its social and national security implications."

The Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) on its part has said the divergent and dissenting views from well-meaning Ghanaians on government decision to sell 70 per cent of Ghana Telecom (GH) called for a careful reflection and consensus building to ensure that any action taken did not affect the supreme interest of Ghana.

A statement issued and signed by the Reverend Dr. Fred Deegbe, General Secretary of CCG, said in as much as the Council recognised and acknowledged the huge problem confronting government in the administration and operation of GT, and its policy on privatise participation as the engine of growth, there were very critical and important questions that needed to be thoughtfully analysed and addressed so that the disposal of such a vital national asset benefited the country both in the short and long terms.

It said CCG thought Ghanaians needed to know factors compelling government to hand over the management of GT to foreigners. 31 July 08

Source: GNA

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