A parliamentary committee has directed the government to make necessary amendments to the prevailing rules to bring Ncell under government ownership. The State Affairs and Good Governance Committee issued the directive to the government in a meeting on Tuesday, December 19.
The committee instructed the Government of Nepal, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT), and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supply (MoICS) to amend the governing laws and regulations to facilitate the private telco’s ownership transfer to the state.
In addition, the committee also directed the government, the Finance Ministry, and others to collect the tax and non-tax fees from the private telecom companies. The decision was taken by taking into account the findings from the “share purchase and sale investigation committee 2080” of Axiata. This along with many other decisions was taken after a meeting that involved Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” and Communication Minister Rekha Sharma.
On December 07, the government formed a 5-member high-level investigation committee under the coordination of former auditor general Tanka Mani Sharma. It’s currently conducting an independent investigation into the Axiata-Spectrlite stake sale and purchase (SPA) deal. The committee will submit its report to the government within a month.
Besides, the committee instructed the government to assess the ability and experience of the buyer (Spectrlite UK)’s ability and experience for the transactions with Axiata.
The government will disapprove Axiata-Spectrlite UK
The State Affairs and Good Governance Committee also instructed the government to not allow the Axiata-Spectrlite UK deal to proceed. In a letter, the committee said that the government and other ministers shall not give consent to the buyout of Ncell until the investigation committee submits its final report.
On November 29, Axiata announced to sell its 80% equity stake and exit Nepal. On December 01, the Malaysian telco group announced a deal with Spectrlite UK to sell its Ncell stake for $50 million.
Many theories have emerged in between the period. The government has remained persistent that the deal lacked integrity. Ncell, in the meantime, has presented facts to stress that the Axiata-Spectrlite UK deal conformed with legal provisions. Meanwhile, many have already fancied state ownership of Ncell.
Will Ncell come under state ownership?
Experts and political figures have entertained the thought of Ncell coming under state ownership. As per the Telecommunication Act, 2053 (1997), that’s likely to happen in 2029 as the telco’s operating license will expire. Many theorized that Ncell is selling its stake to manufacture a way around to retain and keep ownership past 2029. In that context, the government has vocally expressed that the Axiata-Spectrlite UK deal didn’t follow the integrity. On December 19, PM Dahal reiterated that anyone who happened to act unlawfully in the deal will face action.
PM Dahal admitted to having acquaintances with Satish Lal Acharya whose Spectrlite UK is buying the Axiata stake in Ncell. But without explicitly mentioning this name, he asserted that the government would be fair in its investigation and judiciary process. Anyone, the idea of nationalizing Ncell has surfaced again. If that happens, Nepal Telecom (NTC) and Ncell will both come under the ownership of the state.
Do you think Ncell will or should come under government ownership when telcos face many challenges in Nepal? Share your opinion in the comments below.
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