Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Gamtel/Gamcel Owes Over One Billion to Broad Band Network Project

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By Kebba Secka

Gamtel-Gamcel activity report presented to the National Assembly by its Board, showed the national communication outfit owes  one billion, two hundred and fifty million dalasi (D1, 250, 000, 000) equivalent to  twenty five million dollar ($25, 000, 000) loan for the installation of the National Broad Band Network.

The activity report of Gamtel / Gamcel for the year ended 31st December 2019 disclosed that when the Gateway project was under the control and management of Gamtel, it used to generate over eighty percent (80%) of the Company’s revenue. These disclosures were made during the presentation of the Gamtel-Gamcel Activity and Financial Reports for 31st December, 2019 before Members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Public Enterprise, chaired by Halifa Sallah, the Member for Serekunda. 

Board Chair of Gamtel-Gamcel, Mr. Ahmed Tijan Jallow said that in 2013, “GAMTEL received instruction that Government has contracted a private-individual to manage the Gateway. That individual was directly answerable to Government leaving the Company to manage local revenue only.’’ Board Chairperson Jallow together with the General Manager of Gamtel, reflected on the effects of the liberalization of the Gateway as it now leaves the Company to depend on limited local customers.

After the change of government, Gamtel was asked to hand over all the funds relating to the Gateway to the Central Bank. Currently the Company has no control over revenue generated from the gateway project but does instead receive loans from the Gateway funds which has to be repaid with interest.

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The Board Chairperson said  that since Government took over the management of the Gateway, the Company is left with the management of only local calls; thus generating low income.

He recalled those times when the Company was responsible for terminating and approving calls both within and outside the country, which he said generated tremendous revenue.

While noting the declining performance of Gamtel/Gamcel PEC Chairperson Halifa Sallah drew the attention of the members of the Committee on the need to analyse the importance of the Gateway and cited the necessity to enquire into the genesis  of the change of policies so as to identify where the problem lies.

On financial discipline and performance of Gamtel / Gamcel, members of PEC want an explanation from the Company on what has been done during the years under review to collect receivables from debtors of GAMTEL.

According to the explanatory note of both activity reports, receivable income under the Gateway trade is put at one billion five hundred and eighty-seven million and sixty-four thousand dalasi (D1, 587, 64, 000) for 2018 and one billion, six hundred and twenty four million one hundred and two thousand dalasi (D1, 624, 102, 000) in 2019; that other receivable incomes include one billion, six hundred and forty one million and one thousand dalasi (D1, 641, 001,000) in 2018 to one billion six hundred and seventy-one million, three hundred and eighty-four thousand dalasi (D, 671, 384, 000) in 2019. However, the balance sheet reflects trade and other receivable incomes to amount to one billion and fifty-two million dalasi (D1, 52, 000, 000) in 2018 and one billion and sixty nine million dalasi (D1, 000, 000,069) in 2019. The drop reflects provisions for bad debt of over  half a Billion dalasi. The Chairperson urged GAMTEL to develop a mechanism to recover Billions of dalasi owed to the company. It also enquired into the payables or debts owed by the Company.

In their Management report, it is indicated that in 2019, Gamtel rehabilitated its network infrastructure and expanded into un-served and under-served areas of the country. Notwithstanding, there still exist pockets of areas not covered especially new settlements, without fix telephone services, the report highlighted. The report also states that Gamtel-Gamcel in 2019, mainly engaged in maintenance of its network infrastructure, built since 2001.

However, officials said the Board now understands the problem and the potential of the Company. They added that turnaround strategies have been showcased to Government and the Ministry of Finance and that the Ministry of Information, Communication and Infrastructure is providing  assistance to implement their plans which include Public Private Partnership scheme . They also said the National Data Centre serves as a potential element of income generation for the Company.

The Committee uttered caution in jumping into ventures out of desperation for investment capital. It proposed a session to look into the gate way, the recovery and payment of debts as well as the agreement for Public Private Partnership.

The meeting was adjourned to convene a session to look into GAMTEL-GAMCEL to perform a thorough assessment of the challenges.

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