KABUL (Pajhwok): Documents show Roshan firm owes about 2.37 billion Afghanis to the government in two percent frequency services, administrative fees, fine on 10 percent tax on mobile credit card and other payments.
Roshan Company says it reached an agreement with the Ministry of Finance (MoF) under Minister Humayun Qayyumi to pay the arrears within five years, but the agreement was rejected by the Afghanistan Telecom Regulator Authority (ATRA) and at the suggestion of the President, the company has come up with another new plan to repay the amount.
The MoF has said Roshan should pay arrears and tax in installments within five years, but ATRA said the MoF should not schedule ATRA-related payments without consulting them, and a joint committee has decided that the dues should be paid to the government within five months at the end of the fiscal year, but Roshan said it has submitted a new payment plan to the government.
Pajhwok Afghan News has obtained a copy of the Joint-Committee (MoF, Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology) decision report which was sent to President Ashraf Ghani on March 17, 2021.
NasratullahNasratNasiri, MoTIT spokesman, told Pajhwok the company (Roshan) owed about 784 million afghanis in fines for non-payment of 10 percent telecom service tax to the government.
He added the ministry had shared the matter with the Presidential Palace to make a decision.
Saeed Shinwari, spokesman for ATRA, said Roshan owed about 1.4 billion afghanis to ATRA alone in the two percent frequency charge, the Telecommunication Services Development Fund (TDF) and administrative fees.
Noor Alam Hakimyar, chief operating officer for Roshan, told Pajhwok that they had paid about 186 million afghanis of the amount to ATRA on May 29, 2021.
He said ATRA had suspended TDF invoices of nearly 350 million afghanis to pay its remaining arrears.
According to him, Roshan owed MoF about 406 million afghanis and a fine of around 320 million afghanis has been imposed on the company and the total amount is 726 million afghanis.
Why Roshan is indebted?
In response to this question, the company’s chief operating officer said that an attack on Roshan’s headquarters in Kabul in 2017 happened, in which 33 employees were killed and more than 100 others wounded.
He said the call center of the company was destroyed and Roshan faced nearly $15 million loss.
He added the Roshan economic situation deteriorated due to the attack and the firm had been fined for delays in paying taxes, which led to the company becoming indebted to the government.
He added due to non-payment of these fines, the company was forced to apply to the MoF under the article 10threpayment law on March 17 of 2021 to repay the arrears within five years through equal installments.
Article 10 of the law says that when there is a problem with the payment of debts in the form of non-payment on reasonable grounds, the remaining amount can be paid in installments.
This law was published in the Justice Ministry’s official gazette during the then government back in 1979 but the law has not been amended despite progress in Afghanistan’s telecom sector in recent years.
Different decisions on debts payment in installments:
A copy of the letter says former Minister of Finance, Mohammad Humayun Qayyumi, had ordered legal action against Roshan’s request, and the MoF had written to the Administrative Affairs Office of the Presidential Palace on March 6, 2021 that Roshan from 2018 and 2019 years paid 1,140, 600,000 afghanis income tax which had been turned into five-year installments. The company paid the first and second installment of 202 million afghanis to the government treasury.
However, a joint committee of the MoF, the Ministry of Telecommunications and ATRA said in a report: “At the August 6 meeting, Roshan was asked to pay 10 percent of the telecom product fee – which is the public’s deposit with the company without delay and the payment should be made within five months by the end of the financial year, but unfortunately the company did not accept this period and asked for waiver of fines and repayment of original arrears within five years but the committee did not accept that.”
On October 19 last year,the commission decided that the finance minister had the right to change the type of all unpaid installments including the Telecom Development Fund (TDF) fees and that was the reason the minister’s mentioned decision is enforced until a second decision. However, if ATRA is not convinced, it can cancel or change the decision by referring to the Ministry of Finance.
Finance, Budget and General Calculations Commission of the Wolesi Jirga or upper house of the parliament also decided that Roshan Telecom firm’s arrears should be paid in installments.
However, executive director of Roshan Telecom, Karim Khwaja in a letter to the president on October 18, 2020 said that despite they had reached an agreement with the Ministry of Finance to pay their arrears within five years, it still paid 585 million Afghanis as telecom tax to the government on the request of Office of Administrative Affairs of the President.
According to the letter, Roshan Telecom’s admin board also requested a meeting with the president for finding a solution to the problem, but the president denied the request.
The company about the findings of a joint committee of the Ministry of Finance, ATRA and Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology (MCIT) in a report last year said that the committee had exaggerated and made baseless claims in some cases.
The report said that the committee did not explain $15 million loss to the company caused by an explosion in 2017.
However, AGO in a letter to MCIT on June 28, 2020 said that Commission on Recovering Government Loans decided on June 11, 2020 that the 10 percent telecom tax should be immediately paid by Roshan Telecom to the government.
The letter says that the amount of money Roshan Telecom has sent abroad since it has been defaulted should be cleared and there was also need for a recommendation to the company to clear its arrears.
However, Roshan Telecom in a letter to the Anti-Corruption Department of AGO on May 26 said that ATRA scrapped the installments agreement between the company and Ministry of Finance without any valid reasons.
The company in the letter said that the president had ordered a new plan for arrears payment by Roshan Telecom and then shares the plan with the joint committee before submitting it to the Presidential Palace within seven days.
The source said that stakeholders of the company on April 29 had shared its plan with the joint committee based on which the company would pay its arrears to ATRA within three months and arrears of the Ministry of Finance until the end of 2021. However, it said that ATRA did not inform the company whether or not it has shared the plan with the Presidential Palace.
On the other hand, ATRA said that the president had asked them and the Ministry of Finance to take active steps for recovering arrears from Roshan Telecom and also asked MCIT and Ministry of Finance to develop an effective pan for collection of 10 percent telecom tax.
Roshan closed 250 telecom towers:
According to ATRA, Roshan Telecom closed 250 towers since March due to nonpayment of expenses to its contracted company. ATRA made a decision on the regard on March 9 and Pajhwok also made a report on it.
ATRA’s decision included removal of three senior workers of Roshan Telecom that include (Executive director, finance director, and operative deputy director) for what it is said violations, sharing false information and nonpayment of defaults by the company.
“This company has closed more than 137 towers which had been funded by ATRA. All people under these towers are now out of telecom services. This violation from Roshan affected government revenue and services as well as people and contracted companies,” ATRA said in its decision.
However, Roshan Telecom after a day of ATRA’s decision on March 28 in a statement rejected the decision and said that the company had informed all involved parties about legal advices.
The company had said that the problem was raised due to a misunderstanding and discussions were underway for solving it.
But Roshan Company Operational Head Hakimyar said all 137 sites are active but some sites may by not operational due to security reasons or any other problem in which Roshan is not an exceptional case. Other companies have such sides with similar problems which should be addressed.