Uganda accused the nation’s largest telecoms operator, MTN Uganda, on Tuesday of underdeclaring its gross sales and inflicting public income losses, in an extra souring of relations with the South African-owned firm.
Uganda deported MTN Uganda’s Chief Government Wim Vanhelleputte final week, the fourth MTN official to be expelled from the East African nation in lower than a month on accusations of compromising nationwide safety.
The corporate is a unit of South African telecoms big MTN Group, which has additionally had issues in Nigeria the place the central financial institution final 12 months accused it of repatriating $eight billion with out the proper paperwork. The row was later resolved after the corporate paid a token settlement.
MTN Uganda has over 10 million subscribers and competes mainly with the native unit of India’s Bharti Airtel.
Relations between the federal government and the corporate have been examined over the previous 12 months by a collection of setbacks together with a safety raid on the corporate’s knowledge centre, delayed renewal of its working license and the expulsions of its executives.
The corporate has additionally been beneath political strain to listing its shares on the native bourse to facilitate home possession of the corporate and guarantee extra of the cash it earns stays within the nation.
Authorities spokesman Ofwono Opondo stated scrutiny of MTN got here after the federal government acquired the capability to observe telecom companies’ transactions for tax compliance and reporting functions.
“It’s on account of that technical capability that MTN and its officers have run afoul,” he stated.
“They’ve been discovered that in some cases they haven’t been making full declarations of transactions which constitutes undermining Uganda’s financial system.”
‘Espionage or financial sabotage’
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has repeatedly accused telecom companies within the nation of dishonest taxes by underreporting the amount of their calls and knowledge gross sales, however has not named any firms.
MTN Uganda’s spokeswoman Justina Ntabgoba stated the federal government had not been given any particulars of the alleged underreporting of transactions.
“We’ve not gotten any official communication, so we don’t have a response. As soon as we obtain an official communication then we are able to reply,” she stated.
Opondo additionally accused the expelled MTN officers of compromising Uganda’s nationwide safety by “offering backend entry to unauthorised individuals for no matter causes. That’s what these officers of MTN did, opening backend for Uganda’s knowledge system to different unauthorised individuals.”
He stated the explanations have been probably espionage or financial sabotage and that the motivation was nonetheless beneath investigation.
MTN’s Ntabgoba declined to touch upon the accusations, saying solely that the federal government had not knowledgeable the corporate of the explanations for the executives’ deportations.
MTN has been working in Uganda since 1998 when it secured a 20-year working license that expired final October.
In 2017 it started a course of to acquire a 10-year extension however that has dragged on amid disagreements over the scale of the charges to be paid for the extension and different points.
The Uganda enterprise contributes about four p.c of MTN Group’s earnings earlier than curiosity, depreciation and amortisation.