Earlier this week the Minister of ICT, Supa Mandiwanzira informed the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on ICT that NetOne, a state-owned mobile operator had been prejudiced of $78 million in an overpriced deal with Huawei.
The information has drawn a lot of criticism from observers who are questioning the transparency in major State telecoms deals and in our article we also questioned other transactions that have been negotiated between State institutions and service providers like Huawei.
Responding to the concerns that have been raised about its own $98 million fibre project, TelOne, another state-owned telecoms entity recently took steps to guard against the likelihood of it being a victim of overpricing.
The telecoms operator engaged a global consultancy firm which is a unit of Orange Group of France called Sofrecom. This outfit has been tasked with examining TelOne’s network and equipment requirements and benchmark prices to ensure that best value is realised from the US$98 million project contracted to Huawei.
Sofrecom, which was contracted in March 2016, is expected to take six weeks conducting its evaluation and is anticipated to complete its work before the end of May 2016 leading up to the initiation of the fibre project which has been earmarked for a June 2016 start.
TelOne has expressed confidence in Sofrecom and in a statement made to clarify its position on the issue of project transparency it has said,
…is happy with the work going on and is convinced that the Sofrecom deal is value for money given the level of internationally renowned expertise deployed to the assignment.
That “value for money” is being measured against a $270,000 fee which was paid for Sofrecom’s services.
While the work being done by Sofrecom is yet to be concluded, the amount paid for their services and their visible profile as a consultancy contrasts sharply with the $4 million total that NetOne ended up paying another obscure consultancy firm called MegaWatt Energy for the revalidation of its $218 million broadband project.
This further highlights the shortcomings of NetOne which not only failed to secure a competitive price from Huawei but ended up paying a huge price to assess the project. It also does very little to dismiss the cloud of suspicion that has formed over the mobile operator as it deals with allegations of corruption.
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