Telecom Ignored Workers On System

TELECOM Namibia opted to buy a faulty N$100 million billing system despite having been aised not to do so by its workers.

The Namibian has also learned that the government-owned telecommunications company employed a questionable consultant to oversee the tender process that led to the Chinese technology giant, Huawei, getting the contract.

Besides, top management’s reluctance to pull the plug on the malfunctioning system has fuelled accusations that some top managers received bribes and kickbacks.

Huawei spokesperson Phoebe Huangman denied all allegations of bribes and kickbacks.

“Huawei strictly adheres to all laws and regulations in the countries in which it has been operating, and to the highest standards of business ethics.

“This commitment is integrated into our Code of Business Conduct, which governs the policies and practices that our employees are required to follow. Huawei Namibia is dedicated to Telecom Namibia’s development and the long-term relationships that we have established with our Namibian partners,” Huangman said.

Telecom Namibia went live with the new billing system known as Kalabash in November last year but is struggling to get it going, about 10 months after installing it.

In a written response, Telecom Namibia spokesperson Oiva Angula maintained that there was nothing untoward about the system or the process leading to the company procuring it.

“We are fixing the billing system, which is live. We are cognisant of the fact that the system is not working optimally as envisaged,” Angula admitted.

Sources at the company said as part of the tender process, all units dealing with the system were allowed to sit in and evaluate the companies when they made presentations. The majority of the workers involved in the evaluation allegedly did not like the Huawei Kalabash system. Instead, they allegedly found a system by a British company, Cerelion, to be more appropriate.

Huawei’s system was allegedly favoured by a consultant appointed to run the process for Telecom Namibia. The consultancy to oversee and adjudicate the tender process was awarded to a Zimbabwean outfit called Rubiem.

Despite confirming that a consultant was hired, Angula said the decision to select Huawei was a “unanimous one”, and that the company’s tender board, its executive team and board of directors agreed with it. But sources claim that something was clearly wrong with the tender award after Huawei was allowed to drop their initial tender price from over N$100 million to N$30 million to compete with Cerelion who posted a N$45 million bid.

Unhappy Telecom Namibia employees said that an impression was created that the Huawei system would incorporate all of Telecom Namibia’s systems. But that has not been the case and the company has been operating on multiple servers, instead of a single server as indicated earlier.

Ever since Huawei clinched the deal, the cost to Telecom Namibia has been increasing to the point that it now stands at N$100 million. The Chinese technology giant is allegedly also requesting for additional servers, which will cost Telecom Namibia an additional N$30 million. Huawei allegedly told Telecom that the reason why the system is malfunctioning is because the parastatal has no server space. Technical staff have rubbished that as an excuse.

Angula maintained that to date the company only paid Huawei, N$16,1 million towards the purchase of the system.

Telecom Namibia sources said the project was signed off as complete, despite the chaotic state the system has put the company in. The sources further added that the initial project managers have allegedly been removed and replaced by those siding with top management. The new project managers are the ones who allegedly signed it off as ‘fully functioning and operational’.

Telecom Namibia top management allegedly keeps blaming the staff for the malfunctioning of the system rather than admitting that it is faulty.

Telecom Namibia technical sources are calling for the system to be scrapped all together. One source further said that it appears to have been an experiment since Huawei is allegedly reluctant to show where they have successfully implemented a similar system in the world.

As things stand, the system is said to be so bad that it cannot generate reports. This means management is in the dark on what is happening in the company on a daily basis.

The reporting tool is also essential to help the company track things like how long it takes for a client to be helped or problems to be fixed how much is owed to the company and how much it owes and resources available to the company.

The Namibian reported earlier that 15 000 clients have been affected by the dysfunctional billing system.

Without a reporting tool, Telecom Namibia is also unable to monitor whether the company is in compliance with the Communication Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) regulations in terms of the way customers are treated. This is because currently Telecom Namibia cannot even tell how long a customer waits before they are assisted or how their complaint was handled.

The Namibian has learned that the company is currently attempting to revive the reporting tool which was used by Leo before Telecom Namibia took over that company.

Telecom Namibia sources said that the Kalabash system was brought in to replace the ICMS system which has become obsolete. Before the ICMS system, Telecom Namibia bought a system called ISIS. The ISIS system was allegedly removed and done away with three months after it was implemented since it was also malfunctioning.

Now about 10 months after the Kalabash system has been implemented and despite the company losing money, management still insists that there is nothing wrong with the system.

Source : The Namibian