By Sorie Fofana…………………
On Friday 12th February, 2016 we published a fiery letter from Eames Solicitors (Acting for and on behalf of Slone Telecom Limited) to NATCOM (National Telecommunications Commission) threatening legal action in the United Kingdom if the latter does not comply fully with an Agreement or Contract for the Monitoring of the International Gateway System. According to Eames Solicitors, NATCOM has cancelled a legally binding contract with their clients without following due process. NATCOM has consistently argued that, the Contract or Agreement was totally flawed and needed a proper review.
According to reliable reports, several reviews of the Contract or Agreement did take place between NATCOM and Slone Telecom Limited.
It was on the basis of such reviews that, the Acting Director General of NATCOM, Senesie Kallon wrote a letter to the Managing Directors of Online (SL), Afcom (SL) and IPTel (PCS Holdings) on 8th October, 2015 informing them that their International Communications Traffic Monitoring Agent (Slone Telecom Limited) “Will be contacting all of you for the purpose of deploying international communication traffic measuring equipment on your International Communications Network Systems”.
This letter could not have been written if Mr. Kallon knew that his Commission had “no binding contract or agreement” with Slone Telecom Limited for the Monitoring of the International Gateway Systems in Sierra Leone. Plain and simple!
Slone Telecom Limited, it has to be said pointedly, has an existing contract with NATCOM for the monitoring of Quality of Service. And they have other telecommunications contracts with the Government of Sierra Leone under the ECOWAN Project.
Slone Telecom Limited is based in Dublin, Republic of Ireland with subsidiaries in several other countries including Sierra Leone. The Republic of Ireland is an influential member of the European Union. It will be difficult for the EU to sit down and allow a small country like Sierra Leone to bully a registered company in one of their member states.
NATCOM’s case is not helped by the fact that, the country’s former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Franklyn Bai Kargbo had written an open letter to the Global Times Newspaper, confirming that, the Gateway Monitoring Contract with Slone Telecom Limited was legally binding and could not be unilaterally terminated by either party. The NPPA (National Public Procurement Authority) had also proffered a similar opinion to NATCOM.
Having stated all these facts, we believe strongly that, NATCOM and Slone Telecom Limited must sit around the table and resolve all their outstanding differences. NATCOM might be ready to pay compensation to Slone Telecom Limited without even having to go to court.
After all, NATCOM is fully aware that, Slone Telecom Limited must have brought in very valuable equipment into Sierra Leone in readiness for the implementation of the Gateway Monitoring Contract.
We believe that, it will be a waste of tax payers’ money for the Government of Sierra Leone to challenge any legal action taken by Slone Telecom Limited against NATCOM in the United Kingdom.
Also, it will not be in the best interest of Sierra Leone to be seen to be bullying an Irish company, given the fact that, during the Ebola crisis, the EU was providing budgetary support to Sierra Leone. And the EU has been very supportive of the country’s infrastructure development.
We call on President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma to find a way to resolve this impasse between Slone Telecom Limited and NATCOM.
After all, it is in the interest of Slone Telecom Limited that they continue to maintain a good working relationship with NATCOM.
NATCOM should also try not to be seen to be unnecessarily bullying foreign companies operating in Sierra Leone.
We believe that, Momoh Konte (NATCOM’s charismatic Chairman) is a level-headed man. Although he inherited this totally flawed contract/agreement from his predecessor, he should find a way to resolve this unnecessary and long drawn impasse.
It is as a result of the pressure from the World Bank that the Government decided to hurriedly liberalize the International Gateway System and quickly put out on tender the contract for the Monitoring of the International Gateway System.
We still insist that, both Slone Telecom Limited and NATCOM should sit together and iron out their differences.
A stitch in time saves nine. May common sense prevail!
It is always better to talk than to fight, according to the UN Secretary General, Ban ki Moon.