Prime Minister’s ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy yesterday asked the authorities concerned to settle the dispute over the telecom regulator’s claim that Grameenphone and Robi owe the government Tk 13,446 crore.
During a meeting with officials at the Gono Bhaban, Joy said he would prefer an out-of-court settlement, said an official who attended the meeting.
The meeting was attended by officials of the carriers, National Board of Revenue (NBR), and Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
“From what he [Joy] said, we got the message that he didn’t like the idea of appointing administrators for Grameenphone and Robi on such a short notice,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
A number of options have been discussed to resolve the ongoing battle, but no decision was made, officials said.
They discussed whether to form a committee to review the audit reports that found that the carriers owed the government Tk 13,446 crore. The committee’s terms of reference would be fixed beforehand.
It was also suggested that the companies should be asked to deposit a handsome amount to a BTRC account before the review starts. The amount would be adjusted after the review concludes.
It has been decided that the matters discussed at the meeting should not be divulged to anyone outside, Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar told The Daily Star, adding, “Hopefully, we will be able to solve the problems within a short time.”
Jabbar also said the government has been trying to diffuse tension between the two companies and the telecom regulator. “We will not do anything that may hurt foreign direct investment to the country.”
In the next few days, representatives of the NBR, BTRC, and the two companies will hold several meetings and prepare a framework to solve the crisis, sources said.
Joy is scheduled to meet officials of the telecom division today where he is likely to discuss the issue.
The telecom regulator has run a long auditing process and in 2016, it claimed that Grameenphone owed it Tk 12,579.95 crore and Robi Tk 867.23 crore in revenue share, taxes, and late fees accumulated until December 2014.
But the companies maintain that the process of the audits were disputed.
The BTRC last week got the government’s consent in appointing administrators for the two companies to run the businesses and realise the money.
The operators had earlier gone to court.
The High Court on Thursday issued a two-month injunction on the BTRC’s move to realise the money from Grameenphone.
The BTRC on Sunday also went to the Supreme Court and appealed for a stay on the injection. The court would hear the appeal on Thursday.
These issues were discussed at yesterday’s Gono Bhaban meeting, the officials said.
The ICT advisor said that he was looking for a solution that would be acceptable to all as the country’s reputation as a destination of foreign direct investment is related to the issue, said a source.
NBR Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, BTRC Chairman Md Jahurul Haque, Grameenpone CEO Michael Patrick Foley, Robi CEO and Managing Director Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, Grameenphone Deputy CEO Yasir Azman, and Robi Chief Corporate and Regulatory Officer Shahed Alam among others attended the meeting.