CST upfront deductions: We’ll deal with you – Ghana Gov’t to Telcos

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Ursula Owusu-Ekuful at the Mee-The-Press

Government says it will take action against Mobile Network Operators who make upfront deductions of the Communications Service Tax (CST) from customers.

Addressing the Meet the Press Series in Accra, the Minister for Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekukful said upon receipt of numerous complaints from consumers on the application of the CST, the ministry has given policy directives for all Mobile Network Operators, Broadband Wireless Providers and Internet Service Providers to the Regulator, NCA, to ensure that; CST be treated the same way as VAT, GETFUND, NHI levy and all other taxes imposed on entities doing business in Ghana are treated.

“The extraordinary upfront deduction of CST and notification of same to subscribers must stop with immediate effect. All unused voice and data bundles purchased by subscribers should not expire and must be rolled over with the next recharge and finally, MNOs will be subjected to strict compliance with existing Quality of Service (QoS) standards to ensure value for the subscribers’ money in accordance with their license obligations she told reporters”.

She said while the CST alone cannot provide all the needed funding for our CS efforts, it is a concrete step towards the initial funding for building a robust and resilient CS architecture and will provide seed funds for the CS Fund envisaged in the draft CS law.

Ursula Owusu-Ekukful added that the 3% increase in the Communication Service Tax (CST) is meant to fund cyber security strategies, provide revenue for cyber security initiatives and to protect the digital infrastructure being used by both the public and private sector.

The Communications Minister said recent figures revealed cybercrime alone cost the global economy as much as $600 billion in 2017 and experts have predicted the cost of cybercrime likely to hit $21 trillion by 2021, of which all businesses are expected to be hacked in the coming year as most African countries including Ghana likely to have a greater share of the cyber security losses.

According to the Minister, a report released by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) revealed that, reported cases of cyber incidents and its corresponding loss amounted to about USD105 Million in 2018. This figure, she said, excludes indirect costs as well as other incidents which were not detected and/or reported to law enforcement and other regulatory bodies.

“The unauthorized interference with our computerized school placement system and the ensuing chaos that was orchestrated by some elements of our society at the Black Star Square is one incident that comes readily to mind. Similar attacks last year disrupted UK’s National Health Service and the Bangladeshi Central Bank lost eighty million dollars in a single attack. Similar incidents occur each day and Ghana needs to take proactive steps to protect its digital ecosystem. GIFMIS, HRMIS, e-governance infrastructure in health, education, the judicial service, procurement, payment systems, security systems, utilities etc. are all at risk of cyber-attacks she said”.

The Communication Minister further revealed that, an attack on the Critical National Information Infrastructure (CNII) will result in significant impact on the critical services and affect the lives of Ghanaians.

“Cybercrime is the easiest way for criminals to perpetuate crimes using the same medium we use for our day to day online activities. It provides anonymity and is not limited by geographical boundaries” she added.

She noted that CST has been in existence since 2008 and has been levied on charges payable by consumers for the use of communication services.

“It must be said that from 2008 to 30th September 2019, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have been absorbing the 6% CST, and as far as the subscriber experience was concerned, and they suddenly decided to stop that practice when nothing had changed apart from the 3% increase 3 in the rate of the existing tax. Getfund, NHIL and VAT levies were all deducted based on usage and not an upfront deduction upon recharge”.

The minister revealed that government has taken a number of steps to scale up Ghana’s cybersecurity readiness to protect the Critical National Information Infrastructure.

Source: Daily Mail GH

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