VRA fails to appear in court over sale of Ghana Telecom

Officials of Volta River Authority (VRA) scheduled to give evidence over the sale of 70 per cent shares in Ghana Telecom to Vodafone International failed to appear in court on Tuesday.

However, in a letter to the Commercial Division of an Accra Fast Track High Court, read by the Presiding Judge, Mrs Justices Gertrude Torkonor, VRA explained that they were served at a short notice.

The court had earlier, asked the plaintiffs to cause hearing notices to be served on the four entities subpoenaed to present some relevant documents on the case.

The entities are; Volta River Authority, National Communication Authority, Ecobank Development Co-operation and Ministry of Communication.

Mr George Sasraku-Nnipa, Communication Engineer at GRIDco, who has worked for over 24 years, told the court that fibre optic was used to maintain and manage power system and could be used by telecommunication companies for internet, video, telephoning cables, broadcasting as well as for data transmission.

Led-in evidence by Mr Bright Akwetey, counsel for six members of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), seeking a declaration that the agreement entered into by the Government in offloading its shares was not in accordance with due process of law and thus a nullity, wanted to know from the witness why he installed eight instead of 18 cables.

Mr Sasraku-Nnipa replied: “That was what was given to me.”

In an answer to what he used the eight for, witness said optic cables could increase the capacity of service, control power and provided reliability.

Mr Sasraku-Nnipa said, ten cords were transferred to the National Communication Backbone Company but it was being maintained by GRIDco at a cost of $24,000 monthly for its usage.

The plaintiffs; Professor Agyemang Badu Akosa, Michael Kosi Dedey, Dr Nii Moi Thompson, Naa Kordai Assimeh, Ms Rhodaline Imoru Ayarna and Mr Kwame Jantuah, in their capacity as citizens of Ghana, initiated the civil action in October 2008, against the Government over the sale of its 70 per cent shares in Ghana Telecom (GT) to the UK telecom operator, Vodafone.

Mr Akwetey prayed the court to allow GRIDCo to give evidence on how its operations were affected after 10 out of its 18 fibre optic cables owned by the VRA were ceded to Vodafone on the advice of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government.

Evidence has so far been taken from Mr Issah Yahya, a Director at the Ministry of Communications and Secretary of the Inter-Ministerial Review Committee on the Vodafone Transaction, who also tendered the report of the committee as evidence.

The Ecobank Development Corporation, transaction advisers, also tendered its valuation report in which it had valued Ghana Telecom to be worth $1.075 billion.

A notice of civil action filed by the plaintiffs’ solicitor, Akwetey & Associates, in Accra on July 30, 2008, is asking the court to revoke the deal and dissolve the ‘Enlarged Ghana Telecom’ that has been created noting that the agreement had been entered into without due process.

The notice also called for the restoration of the fibre optic network to the VRA, and a true and faithful inventory and re-evaluation of GT’s assets.

According to the notice, the decision of the group to sue the government was due to the unlawful disposal of the public property, describing the move as recklessly causing financial loss to the State.

The notice further stated that the contract, apart from being detrimental to public interest, had under-valued public property for sale to a foreign company.

The plaintiffs are contending that the sale and purchase agreement entered into between the Government of Ghana, GT and Vodafone for the sale of 70 per cent of GT for 900 million dollars was against the public interest and constituted an abuse of the discretionary powers of the government.

They said the decision of government to transfer the assets, property shares, equipment, among others, to Vodafone was obnoxious, unlawful and inimical to the public interest, particularly when no compensation was required to be paid by Vodafone for the stated assets.

The plaintiffs argued that three Ministers of State and the Managing Director of Ghana Telecom, who signed the agreement on behalf of the Government, did not exercise the requisite level of circumspection required of them as public officers, in relation to public property.

They are therefore, praying the court to give an order declaring that the forcible grouping of autonomous State institutions established by law — Voltacom, Fibreco, VRA Fibre Network and VRA Fibre Assets — with GT to form the purported Enlarged GT Group was unlawful and, therefore, void and of no legal effect.

The plaintiffs prayed for an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the Government from disposing of its 70 per cent share of GT to Vodafone, or any other foreign company, without first exploring avenues for funding and better management in Ghana.

The Attorney General was represented by Ms Grace Ewoo, a State Attorney while Mr Festus Kayin, represented Vodafone Ghana.

The case has been adjourned to May 22.

Source: GNA

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