Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle Reporter
THE Government has said some telecommunication operators are fleecing the country of significant amounts of foreign currency through international calls under-declarations.
The Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Cde Supa Mandiwanzira, said the sector has the potential to earn significant foreign currency for the country but it seems that the number of phone calls going outside the country were being inflated, resulting in loss of possible revenue.
Cde Mandiwanzira told Parliament recently that Government did not have adequate machinery to monitor in and outgoing call transactions.
“The telecommunication sector is indeed one of the sectors that have the potential to earn the country significant amounts of foreign currency. Actually, it currently does. For every call that is routed to this country from outside the country, there is revenue that comes into this country,” he said.
“However, we are equally concerned that there appears to be under-declarations of revenues on the amount of calls coming into this country with the inflation of calls that are leaving the country where we have to pay foreign currency outside.”
The Minister blamed the possible loss of revenue on the licensing regime which allows all operators to have their own international gateways.
“Because these international gateways are the conduits for traffic outside and into the country, we are only able to determine how much has come through and how much has gone out through their reporting without any particular system by ourselves to audit and make sure that those statistics are transparent,” he said.
Cde Mandiwanzira said they had asked the regulator, which is the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, to consult and advice the Ministry on what could be done to make sure that the country does not continue to lose foreign currency.
“We have discovered that there are companies that are in the telecommunication sector in this country that know that the minimum amount you can terminate traffic into a mobile phone in Zimbabwe from outside the country is $0.22,” the Minister said.
“What they have begun to do is mobilise traffic in foreign markets to come to this country and they use related companies based in Mauritius and many other places to sell minutes into Zimbabwe. Some of them sell for up to 36 cents but they declare into the country 22 cents.”
He warned companies involved in prejudicing the country saying the law would catch up with them.
“We have also discovered that the same companies are using Mauritius registered companies which are not themselves owners of any bandwidth to buy bandwidth internationally and resell to related companies in Zimbabwe so that part of the margin is being kept outside. So, we are working on a number of measures which we are still consulting on. Once we are ready, we are going to take action. This is an opportunity Mr Speaker Sir, to warn the companies that we are watching you and we are coming at you,” said Cde Mandiwanzira.