Tensions between the Ivorian Ministry of New Technologies and Information and the regulator ATCI boiled over last week as the Minister suspended three key senior staff: Kla Sylvanus, the D-G, Brogoné Bi Gouri Isidore, President of the Administrative Council and Mrs Ahyi Geneviève, Director of Administration and Finance. All three are accused of embezzlement and an enquiry has been launched to investigate.

The Minister Hamed Bakayoko has made a series of specific allegations against them. He said that a total of FCFA220 million had been taken out of ATCI's bank account and transferred to a company called Afritec. Despite asking the President of the Administrative Council for a report on the allegation, no report had been received. Yet the Administrative Council had passed a resolution inviting the Minister to meet them.

Furthermore the Minister alleged that the D-G had abused his position in granting contracts to make gather money which he had used for his wife and daughter. He identified specifically a contract between the D-G and a communications company called Lucofra. This was discussed by the Administrative Council in October 2004 which condemned the behaviour of the D-G. The finding was confirmed by ATCI's own auditors Uniconseil et JLM & Associés.

The last allegation against ATCI staff was that they had illegally charged mobile operators 5% of the revenues collecting FCFA3 billion in spite of a Government decree (No 2001-409 du 5 juillet 2001) which stated that the money was to go to the Government, not the regulator. (This part of the tussle is similar to the case of DRC where there has been a similar struggle over who controls these important revenue sources.)

However, the President of the Republic, the Minister of State and Minister of Finance have stepped in defend what the Ivorian press are describing as members of the "presidential clan". And what has followed has been a discussion over which branch of Government had authority on what date. However, it seems harder for the D-G and his staff to avoid some form of punishment if the allegations of fraud are accepted in any case brought against them.

Le Patriote