12:00 AM, August 08, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 08, 2018

Robi asked to pay Tk 867cr

Robi has been asked to pay Tk 867.24 crore to the telecom regulator and the revenue collector as missed or under payments over a 19-year period, detected after a thorough audit.

Earlier in 2016, the Bangladesh Telecommu-nication Regulatory Commission appointed Masih Muhith Haque & Co to run an audit into the country's second largest operator's books from its inception in 1997 through to December 2015 for a fee of Tk 7.82 crore.

The audit, which was completed in November last year, had placed a claim of Tk 1,251.68 crore.

The operator disputed the amount and after a series of tripartite meeting with the BTRC and the auditing firm, the claim was lowered about 45 percent to Tk 867.24 crore.

Accordingly, the telecom watchdog on July 31 issued a demand letter to Robi, asking it to furnish the amount within 10 working days. Failure to pay the amount within that timeframe yielded a late fee of 15 percent.

“So far we understand that Robi has accepted the findings as we have attended series of meetings with them before finalising the amount,” said Md Jahurul Haque, acting chairman of the BTRC.

Of the sum, Tk 189.47 is payable to the NBR for value-added tax. The remaining Tk 677.77 crore would go to the BTRC for: handset royalty; licence fees; licence renewal fees and spectrum assignment fees; and revenue sharing. In the early days of mobile service in the country, the operators had to pay royalty per handset used in the operators' networks as there was no SIM tax then.

The Daily Star contacted Robi for its comment but the operator did not respond.

However, a top official of the operator said the legality of the audit process and the findings might be challenged.

As per the telecom act, the BTRC is allowed to run audits. In response, the telecom regulator said it will consider lawful action against the operator if it does not pay up.

The amount though does not include missed or under payments by Airtel, with whom Robi merged in November 2016. Airtel's books will be audited and the auditor appointment is under way, said BTRC officials.