Guiea-Bissau’s Government to audit telcos to help stimulate their recovery


The government of Guinea-Bissau reportedly plans to audit the accounts of its two state-owned telecoms operators - Guine Telecom (fixed line) and Guinetel (mobile) - in a bid to find a way of stimulating their recovery. The Guinean economy minister Helena Embalo told Portuguese news agency Lusa that currently both companies are being hamstrung by the ongoing ‘stalemate and litigation’, between their two shareholders - the Guinea Bissau state and Portugal Telecom (PT). In May 2008 the government took management control of Guine Telecom and Guinetel, amid accusations that PT had effectively walked away from the two companies.

In a statement the government said: ‘with the prolonged absence of PT and its refusal to call together the governing bodies of Guine Telecom and Guinetel, abandonment has been confirmed’. It went on to say that it had rejected a call from the Portuguese firm to sell its stake in the GSM operator to a buyer of its own choice. The Prime Minister, Martinho N’Dafa Cabi, has now instructed the Transport and Communication Ministry and the Ministry for Economy to find potential buyers for both telcos. Guine Telecom and Guinetel are both majority-owned by the Guinean government and are experiencing serious technical and financial difficulties. Portugal Telecom Internacional (PTI) bought a stake in Guine Telecom 1989, but its decision to leave the country in June 1998, at the outbreak of the civil war forced the state to retake control of the operator, leaving the Portuguese company's assets in limbo.

Although PT was rumoured to have formally concluded the transfer of the management of the two operators to the government on 7 July 2008, as it stands the government is understood to control 50% of the operator, PTI has 40% and the remaining 10% is held by employees. Embalo is now quoted as saying that the ‘misunderstandings’ between the government and PT emerged due to the Portuguese company halting investment in the two companies and accusing the Guineans of refusing to pay a debt of some USD30 million owed to Guine Telecom.