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Union asks government to bail out Telkom

The Communications Workers Union (COWU) General Secretary Benson Okwaro addressing the media in Kisumu. Photo by Chris Mahandara.
The Communications Workers Union (COWU) General Secretary Benson Okwaro addressing the media in Kisumu. Photo by Chris Mahandara.

The Communications Workers Union (COWU) has asked the government to inject funds into Telkom Kenya to save the company from collapse. 

COWU General Secretary Benson Okwaro said the Telco was struggling with debt and will soon shut down and render hundreds of workers jobless.

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The company, he said, was on the brink of collapse after American Towers Corporation (ATC) switched off half of its masts spread across the country over a Ksh 200 million pending bill, making it difficult for subscribers in the affected regions to call, browse the internet and send money.

In 2013, Telkom sold 723 base stations to ATC on a sale and leaseback agreement to cut on operation costs.

Addressing the media at Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu, Okwaro said the decision to sell the base stations was ill-informed and was to blame for the problems facing the company.

“These masts belonged to Telkom. Now the company has to lease to use them and is unable to pay,” he said.

If the situation persists, he said the company will be unable to pay salaries for the 600 workers and cater for operational costs.

Over 6,000 pensioners of the defunct Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation, he added, were also set to miss their pension if the situation persists.

Also at risk was the government’s intelligence communication system, which is domiciled at Telkom, hence the government should urgently look into the matter.

The government’s acquisition of the company from Helion Investment Partners last year, he said, was shrouded in mystery making it difficult to tell who currently owns the company.

“If we don’t come to the rescue of Telkom Kenya then it means the intelligence network of this country is going to go into private hands. I have not seen any country in the world that allows its intelligence network to be infiltrated with private players,” he said.

To get the company back on its knees, Okwaro asked the government to bail it out with Ksh 6 billion and look for ways of making the company profitable.

“Helios had a Ksh 6 billion investment which they took after the government bought their 60 percent stake. Therefore, a similar investment must be done to revive the company,” he said.

Besides the investment, the government, he added, must pay Telkom a pending bill of Ksh 2 billion which has accumulated over the years to enable the company to offset operation costs.

“They offer services, but the government is not paying. It is therefore not possible to expect the company to make profits,” he said.

Okwaro who was flanked by the union’s Deputy Secretary General and first assistant secretary Shadrack Omamo, called for a thorough probe of the company’s acquisition from Helios and take action against board members found culpable of any malpractices.

Telkom Kenya, he said, had assets worth billions of shillings that have been un-procedurally sold to private companies leaving the firm naked.



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