Dispute over Tk 12,579 crore Audit Claim

Grameenphone pays BTRC Tk 1,000cr, AD may make next move today

Staff Correspondent | Published: 18:52, Feb 23,2020 | Updated: 22:53, Feb 23,2020


A Grameenphone team led by its director and regulatory affairs head Hossain Sadat hands over five pay orders in audit claim payments to BTRC chairman Md Jahurul Haque at the BTRC head office in the capital on Sunday. — New Age photo

Leading mobile phone operator Grameenphone on Sunday paid Tk 1,000 crore, a portion of an audit claim, to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission as per an order of the Appellate Division that asked the operator to pay the amount by today.

A three-member GP team led by its director and regulatory affairs head Hossain Sadat handed over five pay orders worth Tk 1,000 crore to BTRC chairman Md Jahurul Haque at the BTRC head office on the day.

A seven-member AD bench headed by chief justice Syed Mahmud Hossain asked GP to pay the telecom regulator Tk 1,000 crore by today in compliance with an earlier directive that had directed the mobile operator to pay Tk 2,000 crore out of Tk 12,579.95 crore in BTRC audit claim within three months.

GP officials said that they still disputed the BTRC audit but paid Tk 1,000 crore to the BTRC out of respect to the court.

Thanking GP for the partial payment, Jahurul said that the operator had come to a realisation even it was late.

‘GP took time to pay the money but merely managed to get anything positive out of the delay,’ he said, adding, ‘No medium other than the regulatory body can be beneficial for them.’

The commission had earlier asked GP to pay Tk 200 crore in two months but they refrained and now they paid Tk 1,000 crore, he said.

BTRC sources said that the commission would cash the pay orders of GP today from Sonali Bank and deposit the amount in the government’s treasury account with the Bangladesh Bank accordingly.

‘We have no enmity towards GP, instead the commission would ensure every facility which the operator deserves,’ the BTRC chairman said.

However, the commission has taken some measures as part of the legal process, he said.

Speaking about the resumption of non-objection certificate issuance to GP, he said that court would give order in this regard and the commission would follow it accordingly.

The mobile phone operator is in desperate need of BTRC’s NOCs, especially for issuing new SIMs as the company has been struggling to issue new connections to subscribers.

‘I hope GP would appear before the court [Appellate Division] on Monday [today]. Then the court would issue instruction on how the settlement on the audit claim would take place,’ he said.

Hossain Sadat said, ‘GP respects the legal system of Bangladesh and following the order of the Appellate Division, the company has without prejudice made an adjustable deposit of Tk 1,000 crore to the BTRC.’

Reiterating the mobile operator’s earlier stance, he said that GP disputed the validity of the BTRC audit claim, and the deposit should not be seen an admission of liability.

‘It is our ambition to resolve the audit dispute, either through an amicable and transparent solution or before the courts,’ Sadat said.

‘GP continues its dialogue with the authorities and looks forward to resuming normal business operations so that we are allowed to best serve our customers again,’ he said.

On February 20, the AD, following a review petition of GP on the AD order that had asked the operator to pay Tk 2,000 crore within three months, asked GP to appear before the AD after paying Tk 1,000 crore by today.

In the review petition, the mobile phone operator requested the court to allow the operator to pay Tk 575 crore in twelve monthly instalments.

On April 2, 2019, the BTRC based on an audit conducted by Toha Khan Zaman & Co, which was appointed in 2015 as part of the BTRC’s second attempt, claimed the amount from GP.

The BTRC’s claim to GP includes Tk 8,498 crore of the telecom regulator and another Tk 4,086 crore of the National Board of Revenue.

The first attempt of BTRC to audit GP failed in 2011 as the HC declared illegal the appointment of auditor to GP by the telecom regulator.

In July, 2018, the commission issued a demand letter to mobile operator Robi claiming Tk 867 crore based on an audit report on the entity’s information system.

Of the claims, Robi paid Tk 55.2 crore in two instalments out of five following a court order to pay Tk 138 crore in advance before the settlement of audit dispute with the government.

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