The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa this week tabled its 2015 annual report to parliament. It paints a bleak picture of the authority’s performance during the past financial period.
The organisation is sitting at a desolate performance rate of 29%, meaning of all the targets we have set for ourselves (at least those on which the auditor-general measures us) we only achieved 29%. But this number is understandable when one considers the key findings by the AG, which are, among others:
— That we underspent on our conditional grants.
— That our performance information is inadequate and unreliable.
— That our internal controls are deficient (including supply chain management processes).
— That we have not managed national revenue fund receivables well.
No one in Icasa is in denial about the problems (both internal and external) that the organisation faces and the reasons why the organisation has performed so poorly.
Nor are we ignorant about the mammoth task that lies ahead if we are to turn the organisation around.
In the midst of this bleak picture, it is important to highlight the notable achievements of the authority in the past year:
— We have received an unqualified audit for a third consecutive year. Obviously, the ultimate aspiration is a clean audit. However, the fact that Icasa’s finances have been unqualified three years in succession means it is on the right track. It means we have the capacity to improve on our controls as well as our performance.
— The impact of Icasa’s achieved strategic achievements have been of immense benefit. For example, we played a significant role in facilitating free and fair national elections in 2014 by ensuring equitable treatment of political parties by broadcasters. Also, the wholesale call termination regulations have significantly changed pricing behaviour in the market. And the regulatory framework for the licensing of the broadband spectrum bands is now firmly in place as a result of the promulgation of the “IMT roadmap” and the radio frequency spectrum assignment plans.
— Finally, our performance on day-to-day operational activities undertaken by the people in the organisation in service to industry and consumers is not measured by the AG as they are mainly operational activities and not strategic. But we help keep the sector functioning. This work includes the assignment of spectrum not subject to extended procedures; processing of numbering applications; issuing of type approval certificates; administrative processes relating to licence transfers; and amendments. There is room for improvement in service provision and turnaround times. However, this is the one area where we continue (mostly behind the scenes) to make improvements on a day-to-day basis.
During the briefing to parliament this week, we committed that the performance for the current financial year (2016) will be far better than the past year.
We believe the measures we have taken so far send a clear message that Icasa is working. For the first time in many years, the leadership of the organisation took the firm view not to pay any performance bonuses to all staff due to the desolate performance. This has sent a clear message to all in the organisation that everyone will be held accountable for non-delivery going forward.
We have also positioned the organisation, both structurally and functionally, to perform. The organisational realignment and restructuring is now complete and all divisions are aligned to work collaboratively to deliver on the organisational mandate.
Furthermore, the requisite performance contracts, aligned to the organisational strategic deliverables, are in place for all in the organisation, especially the leadership team. For the current financial year, the organisation has set out to achieve at least 65% of its regulatory (and other business) targets. We will achieve this.
While it is important to focus on resolving the internal challenges and getting the organisation working effectively and efficiently, we have not lost focus of what matters — making the sector work for the benefit of all in our country. To this end, we have already embarked on the following critical processes (some of which are long-term, multi-year projects):
Social cohesion: We have published the draft regulations on municipal elections for consultation. We will work with the Independent Electoral Commission and all key stakeholders to ensure that the appropriate rules are in place to ensure that broadcasters treat all political parties fairly and equitably during the election period.
Broadband deployment — spectrum: In recognition of the fact that spectrum is the life-blood of the industry, we have recently published the draft information memorandum on the licensing of the 2,6GHz, 700MHz and 800MHz bands. The licensing process will proceed without delay as soon as the necessary policy prerequisites are satisfied. We are also consulting on the regulatory framework for access to and usage of E and V band spectrum.
Broadband deployment — infrastructure: Deployment of and access to broadband infrastructure remains one of the major priorities for the regulator and government. It is through diffusion of broadband infrastructure networks that the country’s noble broadband policy objectives can be achieved. Icasa is working with the department of telecommunications & postal services on infrastructure deployment initiatives including the rapid deployment policy guidelines as required in terms of chapter 4 of the Electronic Communications Act. The authority also has published a consultation document on infrastructure sharing, and this is taking place in parallel with the project on regulatory impact assessment on wholesale open-access networks. The outcome of these regulatory processes will inform the regulatory and licensing framework for network service licensees.
The authority is encouraged by the recently announced improvements in South Africa’s standing in the World Economic Forum’s survey. We hope to see further improvements in the next year as we continue to implement the necessary measures to make the sector work.
- Willington Ngwepe is Icasa’s chief operating officer