The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) is owed more than R500m by companies and government departments related to their use of spectrum and other electronic communication issues, the Democratic Alliance said on Tuesday.
According to the party, a total of R501m is owed by 11 companies and two government departments, with a further R6m owed by companies or entities that are “untraceable”. The DA received the figures in response to questions submitted in parliament by MP Marian Shinn.
“I will submit follow-up parliamentary questions to communications minister Dina Pule to ascertain what steps she will be taking to recover this money from Icasa’s debtors,” Shinn says.
According to the reply submitted by Pule, almost half of the R500m is owed by the South African National Defence Force and the South African Police Service. TechCentral reported previously that the defence force is Icasa’s largest outstanding creditor when it came to nonpayment for the use of radio frequency spectrum.
The police and defence force together owe R201,1m, which both claim they have insufficient funds to settle, according to Pule’s response. The defence force owes R189,2m and the police R20,9m.
Three companies are involved in spectrum-related disputes, two of which involve substantial amounts of money: Vodacom at R65,4m and Wireless Business Solutions at R55,4m. The Vodacom dispute relates to the timing of the introduction of new spectrum fee regulations.
R337,6m is owed in spectrum disputes and R163,8 in other electronic communications-related disputes.
Five companies are involved in other electronic communication related disputes, Shinn says. Cell C owes R107,3m in legal disputes over Icasa’s interpretation of regulations.
Signal distributor Orbicom owes R4,7m in a dispute over whether regulations were amended to cater for it, while Internet Solutions owes R2,5m and MTN R14,5m in interest and penalties due to the Universal Service Access Fund, for which legal opinion is awaited.
“Icasa has come under pressure from the auditor-general and parliament’s portfolio committee on communications for its inadequate monitoring and accounting systems that have resulted in woefully inadequate collection of fees due for the application of and use of radio spectrum,” Shinn said.
“Late last year, Icasa embarked on a vigorous audit of licensees and their use of spectrum. This recently led to WBS having its equipment sealed, leading to extensive disruption of its communications services to its clients. This matter is currently the subject of legal actions.”
“The DA welcomes the moves by Icasa to get its house in order so the sector can be effectively and efficiently monitored and managed. New computer systems on order must be installed and become operational as soon as possible.
“Icasa’s council must also operate with necessary vigour and political will to ensure that all spectrum users pay their dues on time and no longer exploit the inefficiencies of the regulator for their financial advantage,” Shinn said.
“This is critical if Icasa is to be financially sound and to operate as an independent entity. Any further faltering of the regulator is likely to lead to it losing its [constitutional independence] and becoming a government-owned entity. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media