The war of words between US-controlled Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) and Digicel Guyana is continuing to heat up, with accusations being raised again of billions of taxes being lost by the country from international calls.
GTT has been accusing Digicel of hiding its true profits and running an illegal international calls linkup through Suriname.
The two competitors are coming to a head at a time when Guyana has passed new telecoms laws that allows new competitors to enter the local market to offer new services.
GTT has been insisting that it has, according to its licences, monopoly on international calls and landlines.
Yesterday, in a release, GTT said it has released a document with facts about the international voice and data service it provides, compared with the service being operated by Digicel.
“The comparison shows that GTT’s service is licensed, fully taxed and has more than enough capacity to handle all of Guyana’s overseas traffic.”
The company, however, said that for Digicel, little is known except that a secretive, unlicensed international bypass programme is ongoing.
“Because the service is unlawful, there is no public transparency regarding tax payments, spectrum usage, capacity and more.”
GTT said that telecoms liberalization could be very positive for Guyana, but only if local laws are enforced and the public has transparency.
“GTT is providing this international service comparison to shed new light on this topic – however, only the government has the authority to ensure that the rule of law is enforced.”
GTT said that the record shows that it has operated a reliable international service that contributes to the economy, employs over 600 Guyana workers and has the capacity to handle all of the country’s overseas traffic.
“Equally clear is the fact that Digicel operates an unlawful service and the public has little, if any, information about how it works or if taxes have been paid on it.”
GTT claimed that Digicel kept this operation secret from the public, the business community and the media for years.
“Now that the illegal bypass service has been acknowledged by Digicel and confirmed by the government, the public deserves full transparency and action by our leaders. We therefore again call for Digicel’s bypass operation to be audited by an independent and trusted organization.”
According to GTT, the people of Guyana also deserve to know whether, and how much, Digicel’s bypass operation has cost the country in lost tax payments.
“The damage to Guyana could be $30 million U.S. or more. The public needs to know if Digicel has in fact robbed our country of badly needed revenues by failing in its obligation to pay such a large sum.”
The statement by GTT yesterday would follow that of the Ministry of Telecommunications last month, which asked the company to clearly demonstrate that it has the network capacity to ensure that the people of Guyana have access to quality data services.
According to the ministry, the request was done to guarantee that Guyanese would not be adversely affected by a discontinuance of a bypass link Digicel is accused of having to Suriname.
The government agency said that it recognises that in this age of such high dependence on telecommunications and the internet for the conduct of business, learning and many activities of life, it must be satisfied that there is adequate communications available for the people.
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