The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) will show no leniency to Grameenphone (GP) in realising dues amounting to Tk. 12,579.95 crore from the operator. BTRC chairman Jahirul Haque yesterday said that the GP had been delaying the payment of its dues to the telecom regulator. “They moved the High Court. We followed suit. As our claim is just, the GP will not be able to evade paying their dues,” he added.
Haque was speaking to members of the Telecom Reporters Network of Bangladesh (TRNB) in a meeting at the BTRC headquarters in the capital.
Of the total due amount, the BTRC chairman said, GP, the country"s leading mobile phone operator, owed Tk 8,494.01 crore to the BTRC and Tk 4,085.94 crore to the National Board of Revenue (NBR).
Earlier, on April 3, the BTRC had sent a demand letter to the GP, asking the operator to pay the dues within 15 days. “That two-week deadline is over now. We will take legal steps to realise the money now,” said Haque. The BTRC chairman
said the BTRC was aware of its limitations as the telecom regulator. “We have to go by the book. But the law has given us the provision to take harsh measures if any operators under our regulatory measures don"t abide by the rules,” he added.
“If needed, we will stop giving NOC to GP. We have got the green signal in this regard from the highest policymaking authorities. We will even go to the length of blocking their calls,” said Haque.
GP"s woes over unpaid dues just got worse, as the government now claims a bigger amount following a revision of the company"s books of accounts. Last year, following an audit of GP"s books since its inception until June 2015, the government claimed Tk. 11,530.15 crore, an amount disputed by the leading mobile operator.
The telecom watchdog ran its first audit back in 2011 and unearthed financial discrepancies amounting to Tk. 3,034 crore in the operator"s books from its inception in 1996 to March 2011. But GP disputed the appointment process of the auditing firm. So, in October 2015, another firm, Toha Khan Zaman & Co., was asked to scrutinise its books of accounts from its inception until June 2015. The Norwegian company Telenor holds 55.8 per cent shares in GP and Grameen Telecom Corporation holds 34.2 per cent shares. The remaining 10 per cent belong to retail and institutional investors. Earlier, the regulator had claimed Tk. 867.24 crore from the country"s second largest operator, Robi, as missed or under payments over a 19-year period, detected after a thorough audit. Robi is yet to pay the amount, saying the grounds on which the claims had been made by the auditor were under legal scrutiny.