Country’s largest telecom operator Grameenphone has refused to pay Tk 12,579 crore demanded by BTRC for the alleged financial discrepancy discovered in the audit of the operator’s books.
An audit firm appointed by Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) found the discrepancies in Grameenphone’s payments to the telecom regulator.Grameenphone, however, termed the audit demand as “unfounded and without any legal basis.” In a letter to BTRC, the telecom operator requested that the demand be withdrawn and also requested discussions with a view to find an amicable resolution.
In response, BTRC chairman Jahurul Huque said the government will realise the claim as per the law.
Earlier on 2 April 2019, BTRC issued a letter to GP demanding Tk 8,494.01 crore in its due payments and another Tk 4,085.94 crore on behalf of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) within a period of 10 working days.
The claim was originated from an Information and Systems Audit, conducted by the Toha Khan Zaman & Co., on GP’s operations from inception in 1997 till December 2014.
Approximately Tk 6,194.3 crore, or nearly 73 per cent, of the Tk 8494.01 crore claimed on behalf of BTRC, is the interest amount being charged up to December 2017.
Earlier, BTRC had raised another claim against Grameenphone for Tk 3,034 crore from a previous Information and System Audit conducted by another auditor for the period of 1997 to 2011.Subsequently, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court declared the appointment of that auditor as illegal. Notably, BTRC continues to defend the earlier demand for the period of 1997-2011 at court, while now raising a claim of Tk 12,579.95 crore for the period 1997-2014.
As it stands, the present demand made by the BTRC overlaps the period 1997 to 2011.
“Despite numerous interactions with the regulator and extending our full cooperation to the auditors, it is very unfortunate to note that the demand did not reflect our responses. Throughout the entire audit process we have consistently pointed out the flaws in this audit exercise; however, our observations have gone unheeded,” said Grameenphone CEO, Michael Foley.
In August 2018, BTRC requested for a formal response from GP on the audit findings, and accordingly, GP had responded in detail in September 2018 within their timeline. However, the BTRC demand letter states that only responses made up till February 2018 were considered.
With regard to NBR portion of the demand (representing approximately 32 per cent of the total claim), Grameenphone said BTRC has no authority to raise any demand on behalf of NBR.