Imani Africa boss challenges Minister’s justification of GVG Kelni contract

By Nana Appiah Acquaye, Accra, Ghana

The leadership of Imani Africa has expressed concern over claims made in defense of Haitian firm Global Voice Group (GVG) Kelni by the Minister of Communication in parliament last week in Accra.

In a statement released in Accra under the caption: Reinforcing Imani Opposition to the Kelni GVG Phone Monitoring Contract with Solutions, the president of Imani Africa, Franklin Cudjoe, noted with disappointment how instead of providing concrete proof in her defense of GVGKelni, the minister chose to repeat most of the claims that had been refuted or questioned by Imani Africa.

“Unfortunately, the minister only repeated all the claims the ministry has made for and on behalf of KelniGVG which have been roundly questioned,” he said in the statement.

Imani Africa believes that ‘it’s absolutely pointless’ to have a private company like GVGKelni within the country’s telecom space to be doing real time monitoring since they would still be relying on the telcos to get records of calls that are yet to be charged.

“This means any connection must be to the virtual platform that the telcos use to control the physical network, the so-called Intelligent Network (IN) platform. This is software that the telcos buy from vendors. That is where they themselves collect data to generate the records (CDRs) for their own billing. This is where GVG wants to plug in. This is needless. GVG doesn’t make IN software. The telcos’ vendors configure these platforms. GVG can just connect via an interface provided by the telco. GVG does not have access to the source code of these systems. It gets records of calls that have yet to be charged. But in the end the charging process is still done by the telcos. So what is the difference between getting the IN communications and simply collecting the final records that have been charged (the CDRs)? “Real-time monitoring” is merely pointless jargon. Unless we take the telcos over and run them or we start building complex software and force them to use it, there is always a point where we have to rely on the telcos to tell us what they billed and how much. Plugging into anything lower than the billing system therefore has nothing to do with tax. It is purely about surveillance,” it averred.

The group further argues that there is no way any company can independently plug into the physical network of the telcos to monitor calls without listening to the calls and that to be able to plug into the physical network means literally going to the base station controllers and inserting probes into physical switches.

“This would be a mindless enterprise. It would amount to building a mini-telco. And it would be needless as call traffic is not the same as revenue,’ it stated.

Mr. Franklin Cudjoe in the statement insist that GVG Kelni cannot be trusted per it questionable operational track records in other countries including Tanzania, Uganda, Liberia etc  which the Communication Minister trying hard to defend and also its inability to manage it own website and email.

Why should we trust KelniGVG, with all its obscurity or its foreign sponsor, GVG, with its scandals all over the place (troubles in Tanzania, Uganda, Liberia etc.) to monitor MTN, a listed company with much more to lose if they lie and are caught? In the current model, the government itself has no real way to check if KelniGVG is lying to them or not. The approach of monitoring nodes of the IN for call traffic analysis is opaque to Government. So in the end everything boils down to whether KelniGVG can be trusted. Yet, the company was selected through a restricted tender process with zero transparency. The company doesn’t seem capable of even managing its own website and email. What really then is the government’s justification of putting their trust in them?” he quizzed.

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