Gambia’s Government issues 72 hour ultimatum to Spectrum Group to account for finances

Having made a less than transparent “back-door” sale of Gamtel (and its mobile subsidiary Gamcel) to a Lebanese company called Spectrum, the Gambian Government has issued a 72 hour ultimatum to the management of the group to report on its financial performance.

In the light of the political furore stirred up by the sale and the lacklustre performance of the company thus far, the President has clearly decided to change horses and join the opposition to Spectrum: this is really a case of “having your cake and eating it”.

According to a terse press release issued by the office of the President, the government's action was necessitated by 'the fact that the Spectrum Group has failed to live up to the terms and conditions of agreement that it had entered into with the Government of The Gambia'. The terms and conditions of the sale have never been made publicly available.

The Spectrum Group is still being described as a telecommunications company by the local press although it seems to possess little management expertise in this field. It appointed Rein Zwolsman as CEO. He was formerly CEO of Nitel when it was managed by Pentascope and so is more than familiar with this kind of political “weather”.

The sale was made in response to deteriorating financial performance which can in part be laid at the door of the previous management. Shortly after the sale, top officials of both Gamtel and Gamcel were subjected to a rigorous audit exercise, termination and arrest. Gamtel's managing director Omar Ndow was terminated in October of 2007.

Abdoulie Sey and Cherry Mendy, both in the marketing department of the company were also arrested following a so-called in-house investigation into alleged 'fraud involving the sale of Scratch Cards', in which the management claimed losses amounting to D1.98 million (US$84,465).

However, sums like this seem fairly trivial alongside the scale of losses claimed at the time of the sale. There are those who are asking how it’s possible to run a mobile company in Africa and lose money. More information will follow if it becomes available…

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