Still calls the audit report in question, says they will reclaim the money
The country’s second largest mobile operator Robi Axiata on Tuesday paid Tk27.60 as the first installment of audit dues after more than three years into the tussle between the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) and the telephone operator over the audit claim of Tk867.23 crore.
The payment from Robi came following a High Court order on January 5 that asked the operator to pay Tk138 crore to the BTRC in five equal installments.
“Now, as Robi has paid its first installment, we will lift the NOC (no objection certificate) suspension on the operator. If Robi fails to pay the second installment in time, the NOC suspension will be imposed again,” BTRC Chairman Jahurul Haque told Dhaka Tribune on Tuesday.
He said with this payment the long-standing tussle over audit claim might come to an end.
‘As one operator started paying audit dues, it will encourage the other to clear their dues too,” he said.
“We have made deposit of the first installment to BTRC on Wednesday, honoring the ad-interim ruling of the Hon’ble High Court. Considering the untold suffering endured by our customers, we have decided to make this deposit payment well ahead of the stipulated time,” Robi Chief Corporate and Regulatory Officer Shahed Alam said in a statement on the day.
“However, we still maintain that the audit report is devoid of even the semblance of rationality. Therefore, we are determined to exhaust the legal recourse available to us and hope that we will be able to reclaim the deposit we are making on Wednesday in due course. Furthermore, our shareholders may independently explore other legal options available to them to seek justice in this regard. While we honour the High Court ruling, it is undeniable that the manner in which the entire process has been handled has severely eroded our shareholders’ confidence,” he added.
In July last year, the BTRC decided not to provide Robi any kind of approval for rolling out new packages or services, or import and install network equipment to pressure it into clearing their dues.
In 2016, the BTRC appointed Masih Muhith Haque & Co to run an audit into the country's second largest operator Robi from its inception in 1997 through to December 2015.
The auditors had placed a claim of Tk1,251.68 crore, but the operator disputed the amount, and after a series of tripartite meetings the claim was lowered by about 45% to Tk867.24 crore. From the beginning, Robi called the claim unfounded, saying the commission did not follow audit rules properly.
The BTRC also served notices on Robi, threatening to revoke licence. The government is also set to appoint administrator to the mobile operator to realize the dues.
Robi had filed an appeal with a lower court in Dhaka seeking an injunction against the realization of the money by the BTRC, but the court turned down the petition. In September, it filed the writ with the HC, challenging the BTRC move.
Robi has about 4.87 crore active connections as of November 2019.
The country’s largest mobile operator Grameenphone is also in a tussle with the BTRC over Tk12,579.95 crore audit dues.
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in November asked GP to pay Tk2,000 crore within three months.
The BTRC in last week called for EOI (expression of interest) from interested audit firms to run audit on Banglalink.