DA seeks to unmask TV box producers - TechCentral

DA seeks to unmask TV box producers

Marian-Shinn-180The Democratic Alliance has filed a Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) application with the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (Usaasa) for details of who has received orders to produce 1,5m set-top boxes, worth about R1,2bn, as part of the government’s roll-out of digital terrestrial television.

This is the first tranche in the government’s R4,3bn programme to give 5m set-top boxes to identified poor households.

During the past week, I have repeatedly called for communications minister Faith Muthambi to reveal with whom the orders have been placed. This has met with silence from her and hostility from the Usaasa, which is managing the programme, and a company believed to be one of the three currently producing the boxes.

Industry sources have given me three company names and I forwarded these to Usaasa CEO Zami Nkosi asking him to confirm or correct my information. He has remained silent on this issue.

The local production of set-top boxes was meant to be a flagship government project to open the door for black small, medium and micro enterprises to gain a foothold in the electronics manufacturing sector and grow jobs.

My view is that if this policy is being manifested in the current production allocation, why are the names of these companies not being trumpeted from the rooftops? Government secrecy just fuels suspicion that this programme is being corrupted.

As there is no willingness by government to be transparent about this my PAIA application asks Usaasa to supply the following documents:

  • The letters sent to the 26 companies who submitted bids for the tenders for the STBs and antennae and whose names were approved by the Usaasa board to be on the panel of approved suppliers among whom the orders would be shared.
  • Any signed contracts and orders already issued by Usaasa in terms of the tenders, as well as deposit slips for any monies paid to these companies.
  • Copies of signed contracts, orders and deposit slips to any other service provider involved in any aspect of the digital TV programme.

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So far, national treasury has approved only R2,4bn for the programme. This is sourced from levies on annual turnover imposed on telecommunications companies as their contribution to the Universal Service Access Fund for the roll-out out of universal access to communications infrastructure. The fund is managed by Usaasa.

There is no clarity on where the shortfall of about R2bn will come from, although there are proposals to raise further levies from networking companies and to tap into the resources of the unemployment insurance fund to fund training of set-top box installers.

  • Marian Shinn is a DA MP and shadow minister of telecommunications & postal services
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4 Comments

  1. William Stucke on

    > This is sourced from levies on annual turnover imposed on telecommunications companies as their contribution to the Universal Service Access Fund for the roll-out out of universal access to communications infrastructure. The fund is managed by USAASA.

    Nice one, USAASA! Take money from the Telco’s and give it to the broadcasters’ customers. That sounds fair.

  2. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    This program just gets more ludicrous at every turn; and placing orders for products for which you haven’t as yet established an indication of what the consumer/market preference & demand is – amounts to insanity…

    …from the 26 awarded bidders – amongst which there’s plenty with no manufacturing track record; there’s only going to be, no more than 4 products that are likely to appeal to the consumers and out of the 4, there will only be one leading product that the majority of people will want.

    This has always been just an absurd gravy train scheme for stealing taxpayer money which is going to be having some very serious repercussions on those that are thinking that they can pull the wool over the eyes of the public.

  3. Come on, honourable Shinn, we should not just worry about the true name and nature of these STB manufacturers.

    Government should never, ever even got itself involved in the production, distribution and handing out of free STB to 5m , or maybe even 6m as Min Faith Muthambi recently stated. TV is NOT a basic human necessity, as drinking water, education and health care, and infrastructure like roads.

    “The local production of set-top boxes was meant to be a flagship government project to open the door for black small, medium and micro enterprises to gain a foothold in the electronics manufacturing sector and grow jobs.”

    A complete fallacy, red herring. Gov cannot subsidise or maintain all sectors of the economy by just throwing money at it, and trying to enforce import duties on competing products. Many on this forum, like Andrew Fraser have adequately debunked that myth. Politicians must stop thinking that THEY can be directly the saviours of the economy, the rot in SA’s economy lies deeper. Please acquaint yourself with the last few years WEF reports on global competitiveness rankings, and the specific comments on the SA, especially on its appalling labour climate and stability (ranked 144 out of 144 countries)

    Please read the article by Douglas Gibson : None of government’s business.

    http://www.iol.co.za/the-star/none-of-government-s-business-1.1919376#.VggDncuqqko

    The whole USAASA program for local production of STB should be stopped completely, and NO freebies should be handed out as propaganda.

    We can shelve actually the whole digital migration, DTT, and everybody can switch to satellite TV. OVHD decoders are available for a mere R 400. No subscription needed. Sentech can also stop its Freevision sat program.

    The recent article by Faith Muthambi

    Set-top boxes a catalyst to much more, http://staging.techcentral.co.za/set-top-boxes-a-catalyst-to-much-more/59371/

    was so BB, beyond bonkers, more than berserk, that I could not even dignify myself to reply to so much unrestrained nonsense.
    A catalyst to even more mad money wasting.