General News of Sunday, 23 September 2018
MP for Tamale North, Alhassan Suhuyini, has suggested that President Nana Akufo-Addo may be compromised when it comes the dealings of Chinese firm, StarTimes in Ghana.
Speaking on The Big Issue, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP said the President’s lack of action on the matter, portrays him up as someone whose hands may be tied amid the controversy over StarTimes’ role in Ghana’s Digital Terrestrial Television network space.
“In the case of StarTimes, I am beginning to suspect that perhaps, he [the President] has compromised himself in a way.”
“I say so because we have all heard and read about the President’s itinerary when he went to China recently and in one of his engagements, he had a special meeting with the President of StarTimes. We have also seen donations that StarTimes has made to the wife.”
Given these suggestions, Mr. Suhuyini said it would be in the President’s best interest to take action on the matter.
“I would like to challenge that he [the President] does something not just for his own image but for the benefit of the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association.”
The need for the President’s intervention is also because the Communications Ministry has proven to be dishonest and “scandal-prone,” Mr. Suhuyini also said.
“The [Communications] ministry is not being honest and that is even making matters worse. You see, this is a ministry that is scandal-prone and you wonder why the President finds it difficult to intervene.”
“If you look at the excuses or the rebuttals that are coming from Government [on StarTimes involvement], they are less than honest. They are simply not being honest,” he also stated.
StarTimes takeover fears
GIBA earlier claimed that the government planned to allow the Chinese company to take over the DTT project.
But these fears were refuted by the government.
The government said the platform will be managed by a new firm called the Central Digital Transmission Company, which will be presided over by a seven-member Board, on which GIBA has a representative.
StarTimes’ involvement in Ghana
The government first signed a $95 million deal with the StarTimes to supply and install the Digital Terrestrial Television network platform for Ghana in 2012.
But the contract with Startimes was later abrogated over the failure of the company to secure the necessary funding from the China Exim Bank to execute the project.
The government then awarded the digital migration contract to K-Net, a Ghanaian-owned company.
As K-Net worked on the project, StarTimes sued the government of Ghana claiming an unfair abrogation of their contract with the State.
The Ningo Prampram MP, Sam George, claimed that the Government of Ghana willingly walked out of the case which it was set to win at the international court over fears of not being able to access a $19 billion loan facility from China for the country’s Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) infrastructure.
An Accra court in 2015 first threw the StarTimes case out of court compelling the firm to seek relief at the International Court.
The Mahama government set September 2017 as its target for the migration onto the DTT platform but the current Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has said Ghana is still not ready.
She then shifted the deadline for the migration from analog to digital broadcasting to 2018.
According to her, the project’s implementation process faced some challenges, hence the change in date.
In his submission, Mr. Suhuyini made reference to documents indicating that the Finance Ministry formally requested the Exim Bank of China to reactivate the signed framework agreement for the concessional loan in November 2017.
The Ministry then secured cabinet approval for the commencement of the expansion of the DTT to be executed by StarTimes in March 2018.
This was then followed by the Envronmental Protection Agency permit for the expansion and settlement agreement for StarTimes.
Like other communnicators from the NDC, Mr. Suhuyini maintained that “the resurrection of StarTimes is completely needless, especially so when we have on our own developed the [DTT] infrastructure to this point.”