Chinese companies engaged by PF for digital migration banned in Algeria, investigated in Uganda, Nigeria

Chinese companies engaged by PF for digital migration banned in Algeria, investigated in Uganda, Nigeria

The Chinese mobile companies which the PF government has engaged to undertake the digital migration have been found guilty of corruption and banned from Algeria.

The Zambian government has engaged Huawei and ZTE  to migrate Zambia from analogue to digital broadcasting.

In May , 2012, minister of information and Broadacasting Fackson Shamenda led a delegation of government officials to visit Huawei and ZTE  in China.

Sources at the ministry revealed that the Zambia delegation received lodging, food, per diem and local transport allowances from the Zambia government, yet, the Chinese companies also paid for these same things.

But that should not be surprising as the Huawei and ZTE  are reputed to be good at bribing government officials to get contracts.

Just this week, the intenational media reported that  Chinese mobile phone giants Huawei and ZTE have been met with more than a little scepticism in their efforts to move beyond the Chinese market. But suspicions of corruption and spying are one thing, convictions are quite another.

In Algeria, select Huawei and ZTE executives got a dose of the latter recently when an Algerian court sentenced them to ten years in prison.

The men — ZTE’s Dong Tao and Chen Zhibo and Huawei’s Xiao Chunfa — were accused of involvement in a bribery scandal that saw them attempting to gain advantages for their companies with state-owned Algérie Télécom.

The men were tried in absentia, found guilty, and sentenced to ten years in prison, as well as fined five million dinars (about $65,000). The companies Huawei and ZTE have also been fined and banned from partnerships with state-owned companies in Algeria for two years.

Unsurprisingly, the companies have denied the bribery charges, and Huawei told Light Readingthat the charges were “very serious” and that it was investigating them. Supposedly, international arrest warrants have also been issued.

Whether they’re guilty or not, Dong, Chen, and Xiao can probably rest easy; it seems unlikely that China would extradite them. But their conviction on corruption charges will only accelerate the swirling suspicions that Chinese tech companies are untrustworthy.

In December 2011, Nigerian media reported that Nigeria will investigate the awarding of the USD470 million National Communication Security System contract to China’s ZTE.

The contract includes CCTV cameras to be installed at strategic points in Abuja to counter terrorism.

The investigation will look into the standard of materials used by ZTE and whether the contract was awarded in line with process guidelines for government contracts.

The investigation comes amid growing controversy over the awarding of contracts to Chinese firms and the alleged secrecy around this particular deal.

Earlier this year, the Ugandan government blocked a USD74 million loan from the Import and Export Bank of China (EXIM) meant for a digital migration project, to look into allegations of procurement flaws and overpricing.  There was also a controversy over a Huawei transmission backbone.

In Kenya, controversy surrounded the awarding of a digital TV signal to Pan African Network Group of China.

In the same 2011, Ugandana , media wrote that the top opposition leader in Uganda’s Parliament has called for an investigation of the US$74 million IT deal between Huawei Technologies of China and the country’s national broadcaster.

Nandala Mafabi sent a letter to the Ministry of Finance questioning the cost and transparency of the contract.

Huawei was in August 2010 awarded a contract to supply television studio equipment, establish a national terrestrial network, establish a main head-end system to provide national encoding, build a national operational center, and supply advanced SD decoders for set-top-boxes for Uganda’s national broadcaster, Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC).

“This tender was done without advertising and is therefore a non-transparent transaction,” Mafabi wrote in the July 15 letter. The contract was over-priced and flouted regulations set in place by the public procurement regulator, he wrote.

In response to Mafabi’s letter, the Ministry of Finance moved to block the loan process between the national broadcaster and the Export and Import (EXIM) bank of China. Keith Muhakanizi, the deputy secretary to the Uganda treasury, told a local daily newspaper that a memorandum of understanding had been signed but the loan process had been stopped.

UBC was appointed to serve as a network operator, tasked with carrying transmissions all over the country. It is on this network that all other broadcasters will transmit their signals to the various corners of Uganda.

Supply and installation of this equipment and more is meant to enable Uganda to beat the December 2012 deadline set by the East African Community (EAC) grouping to have migrated from analog to digital broadcasting. The migration is also contained in an International Telecommunication Union agreement on which Uganda is a signatory.

According to the Geneva 2006 (GE06) agreement, all countries party to the agreement are required to migrate from analog to digital broadcasting by June 2015.

As a signatory to the agreement, Uganda set up a national task force to provide clear guidance on the migration process.

Before this contract, Huawei and Uganda’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) were faulted for poor work and contract management, and inflated prices on the $106 million national fiber backbone and e-government infrastructure project.

That project was audited by the Uganda Auditor General following requests from Parliament. As it is, Huawei is yet to deliver the 2,100 kilometers of fiber optics around the country more than 36 months behind schedule.

Mafabi said in his letter that taxpayers are set to lose because the procurement method was not transparent. The letter was copied to the Inspector General of Government, the Speaker of Parliament, the Auditor General and other anti-corruption agencies.

When Huawei was chosen to supply and install the equipment, there was no competitive bidding, which was a key requirement considering the digital migration project is financed by a loan from China.

Digital Television provides better video and sound quality as opposed to analog, and it also offers opportunities like multiple programming called multicasting and interactive capabilities.

Under multicasting, a television broadcaster will be in position to provide many more channels on their own. More channels mean more programming choices for viewers and an opportunity for local content production. It can also provide channels for dissemination of public programs like education, health and other public services.


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