The country’s telecommunications operators will soon have something new to worry about.
Government is formulating legislation that will give industry regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), much bigger teeth to tackle the operators over their tariffs.
The Icasa Amendment Bill, which is being finalised and will go to cabinet soon, has proposed that a tariff advisory council be created at Icasa to study mandatory tariff filings from the operators and make comprehensive proposals to Icasa councillors.
“The tariff advisory council will also deal with consumer input with regard to proposed tariff changes filed by the operators,” says communications department director-general Mamodupi Mohlala.
Another section of the amendment bill deals with the role of Icasa’s complaints and compliance committee, which is meant to investigate and deal with complaints lodged by the public. But the committee has proved largely ineffective so far.
“We want to ensure the committee can resolve complaints in an expeditious manner,” Mohlala says. “We’re strengthening the role of the chairperson of the committee to ensure it executes faster, without being duty bound to the Icasa council.”
The draft amendment bill is not available for public consumption, and will only be published after cabinet has reviewed it in two weeks’ time.
When pressed, Mohlala says the bill contains “a few surprises” but she says these are “justifiable in the context” of the problems Icasa faces.
She says the bill deals with operational and structural issues that have bedevilled the authority and so the draft bill provides greater clarity on the roles of councillors and the chairman, she says.
However, she says the bill does not undermine Icasa’s constitutionally enshrined independence in any way.
“From the policy giver’s point of view, we don’t want to compromise the regulator in any way because we know that would have long-term implications for investment,” she says.
“We’ve seen there’s been a lot of criticism about Icasa’s effectiveness, so our intervention is really aimed at ensuring it is more effective in carrying out its duties.”
Cabinet is due to consider the final bill in mid-June. If approved, it will then go to parliament for debate. The legislation will come into force later this year. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral