Page last updated at 08:42 GMT, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Ghana Vodafone deal 'will stand'

By David Amanor
BBC News, Accra

Man talking on mobile phone
The report said the government did not get value for money for the sale of GT

Ghana's government has said it will not revoke last year's heavily criticised sale of state-owned Ghana Telecom to the UK mobile phone operator Vodafone.

The decision comes three weeks after the leaking of an official review commissioned by the government of President John Atta Mills.

The review said the sale concluded under the previous government was unconstitutional and illegal.

It said the $900m (£550m) Vodafone paid was nowhere near Ghana Telecom's value.

However, a carefully worded statement said the government "accepted the recommendation of the review committee to re-engage with the management of Vodafone and ensure... compliance with the laws of Ghana".

With implicit reference to a year-long legal challenge to the sale being pursued by a civil society group, it adds that "this process of re-engagement is without prejudice to any legal suits pending before the courts of Ghana".

Legally this means that the government is making no judgement on the more controversial aspects of the review committee's report, which stated boldly that the sale was "illegal in several respects".

The review committee specifically recommended that the sale of Ghana Telecom be renegotiated.

However, the government statement persistently uses the term "re-engage".

That difference in terms might be due to the legal implications of the sales and purchase agreement ratified by Ghana's parliament last year.

Speaking on local radio on Tuesday, Communications Minister Harunna Idrissu made it clear the government had no intention of revoking the agreement.

By doing that Mr Idrissu has reassured foreign investors in Ghana.

He did, however, reiterate a desire "in the national interest" to retrieve more state control over the fibre-optic cable network and other fixed assets included in the August 2008 deal.

The government statement acknowledges the value of the sale was indeed $900m for a 70% stake, although less than $270m was realised because of the writing down of Ghana Telecom's apparent debts.

It calls on Vodafone to assist the government in carrying out a full audit; however, the focus of investigation has now shifted to last year's interim management team who prepared Ghana Telecom for sale.

The review committee accuses this team of gross mismanagement and financial malpractice resulting in the significant devaluation of Ghana Telecom.

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