Lebanon: Telecom Chief Doctors Documents

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The latest battle has centered around Youssef’s refusal to grant private Internet service providers (ISPs) and Lebanon’s two national mobile phone companies access to the government’s E1 Internet line. (Photo: Archive)

By: Hassan Chakrani

Published Friday, July 26, 2013

Relations between the Ministry of Telecommunications and Ogero, Lebanon’s state-owned telecom provider, have reached new lows after reports of a cover-up by the company’s general manager.

Minister of Telecommunication Nicolas Sehnaoui and Ogero Director-General Abdel-Moneim Youssef have been at each others’ throats for months now, placing blame on the other for the telecom sector’s many problems.

The latest battle has centered around Youssef’s refusal to grant private Internet service providers (ISPs) and Lebanon’s two national mobile phone companies access to the government’s E1 Internet line.

According to Sehnaoui, who has asked for a government investigation into Youssef’s conduct, Ogero’s actions are costing state coffers half a million dollars monthly due to the fact these companies are having to buy their bandwidth from the international market.

After Sehnaoui recently accused Youssef of holding up Internet access for the two national mobile companies in a press conference, the minister sent a request to Ogero asking it to take immediate measures to remedy the situation.

Youssef responded by revealing to the press a letter that he claimed he had sent to the ministry prior to Sehnaoui’s press conference, asking them to pass on the two companies’ applications for Internet service to Ogero, with the intent of making it appear as if the minister’s appeal was a response to Youssef’s request.

But Youssef’s letter never materialized at the ministry, and it became clear later that it was sent to a general manager that is loyal to him, after which it took another 11 days to reach the minister’s office despite the fact that the recipient of the document works in the same building as the minister.

Worse yet, a ministry investigation showed that the way the document was registered in its records was likely faked, by inserting its arrival alongside another request, in handwriting that is nearly impossible to read, and using the serial number of a completely unrelated form.

After efforts to get the government’s central investigations unit to look into the case led nowhere, the ministry decided to request Ogero’s own registry to expose the tampering, only to discover that the files were locked away in Youssef’s office, where he could easily make the necessary changes to cover up any wrongdoing.

What is certain is that the situation in the telecom sector cannot continue this way for long without causing it serious damage, either resulting from the high costs endured by private ISPs or from the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in state income each month, not to mention the wider impact it will have on the economy.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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