By Sorie Fofana.
In April 2016, the Sierra Leone Government formally ended the sole-sourcing of the management of the International Gateway System which was handled by Sierratel, a 100% government owned telecommunications outfit.
The government decided to liberalize the International Gateway System by allowing mobile phone operators to own and operate their separate gateways.
Following the liberalization of the International Gateway System in April 2016, the Sierra Leone Government through NATCOM contracted a Ghanaian company, Subah InfoSolutions (Ghana) Limited to monitor and verify the volume of calls generated by telecommunications companies in Sierra Leone.
Subah InfoSolutions was selected without going through any transparent competitive bidding process. In fact, the company had no previous experience in monitoring and verifying the volumes of telephone calls.
Before the liberalization of the International Gateway System, the Sierra Leone Government was receiving approximately US$20M (Twenty Million United States dollars) from the management of the International Gateway System annually. The question must be asked: How much is the Government of Sierra Leone now getting from the management of the International Gateway System which is a natural resource? Figures seen by the Global Times show that the Sierra Leone Government is getting a pittance from the management of the International Gateway System.
Massive Sim Box Fraud
Due to the poor and/or ineffective monitoring of Sierra Leone’s International Gateway System, Sim Box fraud or the illegal termination of international calls has become rampant. Subah InfoSolutions lacks the capacity and wherewithal to effectively monitor Sierra Leone’s International Gateway. Plain and simple!
As a result of rampant illegal termination of calls commonly called Sim Box fraud, the Sierra Leone Government is losing Billions or Trillions of Leones a month in revenue generation.
The Government of Sierra Leone should consider the possibility of reviewing the Gateway Monitoring contract and ensure that a transparent system of selecting a contractor for the monitoring of the International Gateway System is put in place.
Correct The Mistake
The hasty decision taken by the Government of Sierra Leone to liberalize the International Gateway System in April 2016 has cost the Government dearly in terms of revenue generation.
In 2014, The then World Bank Country Manager in Sierra Leone, Francis Ato Brown pressurized the Sierra Leone Government to liberalize the International Gateway System or forfeit a US$31M (Thirty one million United States Dollars) loan for the landing of the Fibre Optic Cable in Sierra Leone.
The World Bank made the liberalization of the International Gateway System a major precondition for the disbursement of the loan amount to the Sierra Leone Government.
The Bank had foolishly argued that the liberalization of the International Gateway System would lead to cheaper and affordable telephone calls, both incoming and outgoing calls. At that time, a minute call from Central Europe to Sierra Leone was US34 Cents. Now, a minute call from Central Europe to Sierra Leone is about US40 Cents. What a tragedy?
Since Subah InfoSolutions and NATCOM are incapable of effectively monitoring the International Gateway System, we call on the Government of President Julius Maada Bio to review the International Gateway Monitoring contract and endeavour to recruit an experienced company to monitor the Gateway.
It appears as if some of the mobile phone operators are having a field day in the absence of an effective and efficient monitoring system in place to monitor Sierra Leone’s International Gateway System.
Many Sierra Leoneans have argued that the poor and ineffective monitoring of the International Gateway System has led to rampant Sim Box fraud and the unchecked illegal termination of international calls which has deprived the Sierra Leone Government of Millions of United States dollars in revenue generation since 2016.
The earlier the International Gateway Monitoring contract is reviewed, the better for Sierra Leone. Sierra Leoneans are sick and tired of the criminal practice of illegal termination of international calls by foreign crooks and telecom fraudsters parading as investors in Sierra Leone.
A stitch in time saves nine!