The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has failed to communicate its council decisions on its website as required by the legislation that governs it, the Democratic Alliance said on Tuesday.
The Icasa Amendment Act states that council minutes must be published on the website and in Icasa’s library at its office in Sandton within 30 days of a meeting. No minutes have been published since the law was gazetted on 7 April 2014, said DA MP Marian Shinn.
“This means that settlements made by the Icasa council … about companies and state organisations that were indebted to Icasa are kept out of the public eye,” she said.
“Of particular concern is the secrecy surrounding the out-of-court settlement reached recently with [iBurst parent] Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) following its failed court bid earlier to have declared unlawful Icasa’s 2013 actions to seize its equipment because of failure to pay its licence fees.”
An Icasa spokesman has been asked for comment and TechCentral will update this article once it’s been furnished. Shinn said that at Friday’s joint meeting with parliament’s portfolio committees on telecommunications and postal service & communications, Icasa gave a brief update of the legal issues confronting it. The WBS issue was not listed.
After WBS lost its case against Icasa with costs in the high court in Johannesburg in April, one of its directors said the company did not agree with the judgment and intended appealing. Nothing further has been published on the matter, Shinn said.
“When asked at Friday’s meeting for an update on the WBS issue, the chairperson of the Icasa council, Stephen Mncube, responded vaguely that the issue had been settled through consultation between lawyers representing Icasa and WBS and the settlement was approved by the council,” said Shinn.
“He asked an Icasa lawyer present at the meeting to give details of the payment terms, but the lawyer was unable to provide these. It was up to councillor Joseph Lebooa, who played an active role in exposing WBS’s indebtedness to Icasa in early 2013, to give some of the details.”
Shinn said the high court judgment said WBS owed Icasa R113m — excluding interest — in unpaid spectrum licence fees. The subsequent agreement with Icasa stated that WBS would pay R76m, being the unpaid licence fees for two years, she said.
“It was explained to the committees that this was a complex settlement and Mncube promised to furnish the committees with details of the settlement and payment schedule.”
Shinn said she would ask questions in parliament about the deal with WBS and possible settlements with other high-profile debtors to help determine whether Icasa had been sufficiently robust in its collections.
“I will also ask whether those, including WBS, who are in arrears are using the spectrum for which they have not paid and, if so, why. The non-payment of fees entitles Icasa to make the unpaid-for spectrum available to other operators. I will also write to Mncube to ask him to post the council’s minutes on Icasa’s website without further delay.” — © 2014 NewsCentral Media