Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) would serve show cause notices to mobile phone operators Grameenphone and Robi for their failure to pay government dues, BTRC sources said. Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) is going to serve the notices to the mobile phone operators ‘within a few days’ to realise the Tk 13,446.95 crore dues, said BTRC chairman.
“They (GP and Robi) must pay the audit claims; they can pay in installments if they wish, but they have to pay,” BTRC Chairman Jahurul Haque told Bangladesh Post on Thursday. “We are dealing with the issue as per legal procedure. None would be allowed to dodge government dues,” he warned. BTRC sources said the Post and Telecommunication Ministry recently permitted the regulatory commission to issue the show cause notices to the mobile operators over why their licences would not be revoked for not paying the audit claims.
“The ministry gave the consent following a proposal from the telecom regulator as the mobile phone operators declined to pay audit claims,” said a BTRC official on Thursday, adding that the commission is now processing the show-cause letters. “The commission would take the next course of action based on responses from the mobile phone operators,” he said, referring to cancellation of license.
Mentionable, the mobile operators have 76 percent of the country’s mobile phone subscribers under their belt. A BTRC official said the notices would be served under Section 46 of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Act - 2001 that allows the commission to suspend and cancel licences on logical ground. Violation of licensing conditions or regulations of the commission could result in such regulatory measures.
Mentionable, before the cancellation or suspension of licence of any telecom licensee, the commission has the legal binding to serve a 30-day notice seeking explanation from the licensee asking why its licence would not be cancelled for violation of licensing conditions and regulatory guidelines. “In line with the Telecom Act,” the BTRC official said, “The commission would now serve the show-cause notices to GP and Robi within a few days.”
The act describe that the Commission has been empowered to revoke and suspend licenses for logical reasons. If operators break rules, the commission can take such legal step. It is to be noted, on 2 April this year, the BTRC asked GP to pay Taka 12,579.95 crore in audit claims in 10 days. Of the total amount, Taka 8,494.01 crore is payable to the BTRC and Taka 4,085.94 crore to the National Board of Revenue (NBR), a BTRC-appointed audit firm said recently.
In 2015, GP was accused of going back on promises they made to lure customers and then refusing to explain its fraudulent act. The operator promised its tens of millions of subscribers a minute's free talk-time to compensate for frequent call drops and then discontinued it without letting them know, clients alleged to the telecom regulator.
An official of the NBR said, “The mobile operator firm GP has evaded tax amounting to more than Taka 7 crore by not paying VAT on rent of plots and buildings. The company also evaded around Taka 3,000 crore in other taxes.” NBR sources also said that the board has found evidence of tax evasion against GP. The firm evaded more than Taka 1,023 crore in taxes by showing SIM card sales and SIM replacements, added sources.
In December 2017, the NBR issued a demand notice to GP, asking the firm to pay another Taka 378.95 crore in taxes. There are allegations that the company did not pay VAT and supplementary duty amounting to Taka 348 crore on SIM cards sold from 2006 to 2007. Adding interest, the NBR is demanding Tk 452 crore from GP. The firm had also reportedly evaded taxes amounting to Tk 100 crore and Tk 29 crore in two phases, by illegally using exemptions.