A former Deputy Minister of Information, Felix Kwakye Ofosu, has said the decision by government to award the contract to StarTimes for the expansion of the Digital TV space, is due to the loans we contracted from China.
He is also alleging that the owner of StarTimes, a powerful individual and highly influential-played a key role in making it easier for Ghana to receive the Chinese loan of $2 billion.
He said emphatically that, China is using StarTimes as pre condition for loans given Ghana.
In giving a chronological account of the process that has led to this, the former Deputy Minister said, the transition from analogue to digital marked a major milestone in the journey towards compliance with the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU’s) decision that all member countries migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting.
He said: ‘’In 2006, Ghana, along with other members of ITU, signed an agreement in Geneva that set June 17, 2015 as the deadline for all countries in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Russia to migrate from analogue to digital terrestrial television broadcasting technology within the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Band. The Agreement further set June 17, 2020 as the deadline for migrating onto the Very High Frequency (VHF) Band.
He further noted that in 2011, a tendering was done to allow companies with the capacity to bid for the contract.
‘’After the bidding, a company by name StarTimes Company Limited won the bid because they were far ahead as compared to the others. The company made plans to contract a loan of $95 million from the China Development Bank (CDB) but after a period, they came back and informed government they have given the deal to StarTimes, a parent company in China. The contract we signed with them made provision for assigning their rights. The parent company pledged to contract the contract sum from the China Exim Bank and so in 2012, we signed the contract.
‘’We waited for a year but the company failed to execute their plan. We gave them another year but they again failed to execute their deal and we were fast approaching the deadline and so, the Ministry of Communications spoke with the Attorney General and per advice, we cancelled the contract. StarTimes went to the High Court to seek redress but failed in that attempt. They later followed through to the Appeals and Supreme Courts but failed as well. They then went to the International Chamber of Commerce Tribunal where we raised preliminary objection and the Chamber upheld our argument.’’
He added: after this process, we opened another bid and invited companies to bid and encouraged StarTimes to bid again but they refused and so after the biding a Ghanaian company, KNET won the bid and in 2016 we signed a contract worth $72 million. They were able to complete the first and second phases amounting to 90 percent of the entire contract. And so, we were expecting the new administration to continue from we [NDC] left off so we migrate. However, in April 2018, government contracted StarTimes to conduct an audit and after conducting the audit, they established that, KNET had done a good job. Then in a surprising twist, the current administration contracted StarTimes to do an enhancement of what KNET had already done at a cost of $95 million which was the original cost they [StarTimes] initially bided but failed to execute.’’
The system he lamented required no enhancement and even if an enhancement was required, KNET was the company to do it. It is obvious that China is using StarTimes as pre condition for the loans they have given us.’’
Felix Kwakye Ofosu argued the deal would not benefit Ghanaians because ‘’it is obvious the government of Akufo-Addo are not acting in the interest of the country rather; they are acting in the interest of China.’’
Digital Broadcasting Migration—migration from analogue to digital broadcasting— refers to the process in which television services operating on analogue are transferred to digital based transmission networks over a period of time, and at the end of which process the analogue transmitters are switched off.