The telecom regulator has invited the two operators to a dialogue, which will also include the NBR, to come to an amicable solution
Both Grameenphone and Robi thought they had settled their long-drawn-out tug-of-war over unpaid dues with the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) last year when the court ordered them to pay 15.9 per cent of the claimed amount in instalments.
But out of the blue, last week Posts, Telecom and IT Minister Mustafa Jabbar mentioned in parliament that the two are yet to pay Tk 11,308.6 crore, which would be the remaining 84.1 per cent of the amount claimed by the BTRC in unpaid sums after combing through their books.
This threw the two operators into a state of confusion.
And then came a letter from the telecom regulator inviting the two operators to a meeting, which will also include officials from the National Board of Revenue (NBR), to come to a solution.
After an information and systems audit by Toha Khan Zaman & Co. on Grameenphone’s books from its inception in 1997 until June 2015, the BTRC said the operator has failed to pay a total of Tk 12,579.95 crore.
The country’s leading operator vehemently disputed the sum and fought the matter in court. Then last year, the Supreme Court directed Grameenphone to pay Tk 2,000 crore, which the operator thought was the end of the matter.
In a similar vein, after an audit into Robi’s books since its inception in 1997 to December 2014, the BTRC claimed Tk 867.23 crore from the operator for unpaid revenue share, taxes and late fees.
The country’s second-largest operator too fought the matter in court, which ordered it to pay Tk 138 crore in five instalments.
“The audit findings cannot be changed. But if there were any discrepancies, then we can discuss it,” said Shyam Sunder Sikder, chairman of BTRC.
As the case is dragging on, the telecom regulator wanted to meet with Grameenphone and Robi personally to come to a compromise, if necessary, BTRC officials told Dhaka Tribune recently.
“We have been talking about this internally among ourselves,” said Subrata Roy Maitra, vice-chairman of the BTRC, while declining to reveal more without the court's permission.
Robi is yet to pay the Tk 300 crore as value-added tax to the NBR, according to the BTRC.
“We welcome the BTRC's call for a meeting, but it should be under a legal framework,” said Shahed Alam, head of regulatory and corporate affairs at Robi, adding that the BTRC’s audit findings were incorrect.
The letter from the BTRC asked Robi to send a representative to the meeting, where representatives from the NBR will also be present.
“But we don’t know the terms and conditions. We are eager to know what sort of compromise they are willing to make. We can only hope they will come to a compromise,” he added.
Grameenphone declined to comment on the matter, citing the pending court case.