The country’s leading mobile phone company Grameenphone has violated internal guidelines set by its parent company Telenor in awarding 11 sponsorships to public entities and others during 2013 to 2016, said Norway-based Telenor.
A Telenor news release issued on Monday said an internal audit of the Telenor Group had found that the GP violated internal sponsorship guidelines in 11 cases among 250 sponsorships made in the period.
‘Group internal audit of Telenor conducted a routine audit of GP in 2013, during which it was discovered that certain sponsorships were in breach with Telenor’s internal guidelines. The most serious breach concerned a sporting event related to the Bangladesh Armed Forces,’ said the release.
The case was reported to Sigve Brekke, who at that time was head of Telenor Asia and chairman of the GP board of directors.
Sigve is now the group CEO of Telenor, which owns 55.8 per cent shares of the GP. Grameen Telecom owns around 34 per cent shares while general and other shareholders hold rest of the shares.
In relation to the audit findings of 2013, a new audit by Telenor Group was conducted in May of 2016 where it was again discovered that sponsorships of public authorities were in breach with internal guidelines.
‘The audit uncovered, among others, the sponsorship of an anniversary, and the refurbishment of a canteen used by the Bangladesh Police, including the security police, Rapid Action Battalion,’ said Telenor.
It also said that the GP had received security services by the Bangladesh Police in connection with certain strikes carried out by local employees and service providers outside GP’s offices in 2015.
The Rapid Action Battalion is part of the local police force in Bangladesh and Telenor is aware that the police battalion is ‘disputed,’ Telenor said.
Telenor, however, said that it was dependent upon local law enforcement to provide security in critical situations.
‘Furthermore, continued sponsoring of the same sporting event as in 2013 was discovered,’ it said.
The Telenor Group’s internal audit also found that between 2015 and 2016, the expense of two tours for two journalists to West Africa and Sri Lanka/India were in contradiction of internal sponsorship guidelines.
These sponsorships had been approved by members of GP’s management, despite the measures implemented after the internal audit in 2013, the parent company also said.
Telenor has not uncovered if any transfer of funds to individuals was taken place in connection with these sponsorships.
Norwegian media quoting Telenor officials said that the GP spent 6.2 million Norwegian kroner or around Tk 6 crore during 2013-16 in sponsorship for law enforcing agencies and armed forces.
Telenor said, ‘The mentioned sponsorship funds have not been allocated in accordance with the Group’s internal guidelines. They should never have been allocated in the first place. This is unacceptable,’ adding that, ‘Telenor is not satisfied that the measures taken after the 2013 audit did not prevent additional cases of unacceptable sponsorships.’
Asked about the issue the GP in a statement said, ‘Some deviations in the sponsorship approval process were uncovered during regular internal audits and have been fully addressed by the relevant internal functions within both the GP and Telenor. We are confident that the measures taken as a result of these findings will strengthen our internal processes while ensuring event stricter adherence to GP’s policies.’
The board of directors in Telenor ASA has announced that Sigve Brekke will continue as the CEO of the Group after examining the Brekke’s handling of the matter.
Norwegian media said there was an ongoing power struggle between its chief executive Sigve and the chairwoman Gunn Waersted although both on Wednesday claimed to have no dispute among themselves.
Meanwhile, the GP is currently run by Norwegian executive Petter-Børre Furberg who joined in October as acting CEO.
GP’s former CEO Rajeev Sethi was suddenly gone from the company without fulfilling his tenure and also did not join any other operation of Telenor.
Furberg will continue until a permanent replacement for Sethi is found, according to GP officials.
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