FT Online

Published:
2019-09-19 12:17:22 BdST

Audit claim dispute with GP to end within three weeks


Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has said that the dispute over the telecom regulator’s audit claim of around Taka 120.00 billion against the country’s largest mobile phone operator Grameenphone (GP) is likely to be settled within the next two to three weeks through discussions.

 “We’re (government and GP) going towards an amicable solution which will be transparent and be acceptable to both the parties. It should not take more than two to three weeks to resolve the problem. We’ll forget all happenings (disputes) and we want to bury all these things from today (Wednesday),” he said.

The finance minister gave the information while briefing reporters after Post and Telecommunications Minister Mostafa Jabbar, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and Grameenphone CEO Michael Patrick Foley met him at his secretariat office on Wednesday, reports BSS.

 

Earlier on August 25 and August 26 respectively, the mobile operators Robi and Grameenphone filed two cases with a Dhaka court, seeking permanent injunctions on the telecom regulator’s audit claims of Tk 134.47 billion.

On September 5, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) issued show cause notices on the operators, asking them to explain within 30 days why their licenses would not be canceled for not paying the dues.

The telecom regulator ran separate audits into the two operators’ books from their inception until December 2014 and claimed the amounts — Tk 125.80 billion from GP and Tk 8.67 billion from Robi.

The finance minister said the Grameenphone would withdraw its case while both the government and the GP would sit across the table and thus come to a win-win solution.

 “If we pursue our disputes with them (GP), it might take a long time and it might also hamper their business………so, the best possible avenue for a peaceful solution would be that they would pay us the dues and for that, we would extend them all necessary cooperation,” he added.

Answering to a question, Kamal said for sitting across the table with the government for an amicable solution, the GP is trying to get their consent from the Telenor headquarters.

 “It’s difficult to say in how many days the dispute would be resolved. But, there will be a solution, Insha Allah, and you will know it in due time. The final solution will not go against the country,” he said, adding the government would try to realise whatever (amount) the legitimate claim is.

Post and Telecommunications Minister Mostafa Jabbar expressed his high optimism about resolving the problem through discussions and said no such situation would be created which would hamper the environment of doing business.

 “The BTRC doesn’t want that the healthy environment of business is hampered. Side by side, the national exchequer can’t be affected…we’re hopeful about a win-win solution,” he added.

The NBR Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said the BTRC’s audit claim of around Taka 80.00 billion from GP have around 60-70 per cent interest. On the other hand, he said the NBR’s audit claim of around Taka 40.00 billion from GP does not have any interest.

 “So, we’re slightly ahead in this regard and we were in a process of realising this amount through ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)… Now we’re hopeful of realising the amount,” he added.

Grameenphone CEO Michael Patrick Foley said there are certain issues which have to be resolved only through discussions and nothing else.

 “When we say amicably, we’ll remove all the obstacles and we’re now looking for a status quo. We’ll get to the table and try to deal it as quickly as possible in a transparent and fair manner,” he added.

Answering to a question, Foley said they have always paid their dues to the government which was justified.

 “I’m pleased now that we’ve come together to find out an amicable, transparent and fair resolution to the issues around audit,” added the CEO of the country’s top mobile phone operator.

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