In an extraordinary admission to the telecommunications and broadcasting industry, outgoing Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) chairman Paris Mashile said on Thursday evening that the regulator had “failed” the sector, adding that he would take personal responsibility for the poor performance.
“I concede we have failed you and, at the end of the day, I am accountable,” he told delegates at an Icasa stakeholders’ event on Thursday evening in Sandton. “I would like to beg your pardon and ask for your indulgence.”
Responding to a complaint from a Vodacom representative about the length of time Icasa took to respond to industry queries, Mashile said the authority’s performance had been “inexcusable and unacceptable” and that this had affected the operations of Vodacom and other companies “in very serious ways”.
“It’s a question of efficiency from our side [and] I can’t fathom an excuse,” he said. “We are not serving the sector well and it requires a turnaround strategy.”
However, Mashile provided no insight as to how the regulator would fix the operational problems bedevilling the authority. That was left to councillor William Stucke, who said a project management system was being developed to help deal with some of the operational issues.
Mashile complained that Icasa was not properly funded and that the industry regularly poached its best skills. “If we do get the skills, not a second later and they’ve gone.”
He also lamented the authority’s reliance on government for funding, insinuating that this undermined its independence. “How can you call yourself independent when you still have to go cap in hand [to government] for cash? Maybe you [the industry] can help us talk to the policy makers … to say this regulator must get the best.”
Mashile also mooted a cooling off period for senior Icasa staff, suggesting that this could help stop the active poaching of the regulator’s skills by the industry.
“I think one-tenth of the people in this room once worked for Icasa. That shows you the challenges we are facing,” Mashile said. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral