ICASA not acting transparently – Shinn

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is acting is a non transparent manner by failing to communicate its council decisions on its website as required by law, according to Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister of telecommunications and postal services Marian Shinn.

Shinn said in a statement the ICASA Amendment Act 2014 requires council minutes must be published on the ICASA website and in the regulator’s library within 30 days of a meeting, but no minutes have been published since the law was gazetted on April 7.

“This means that settlements made by the ICASA council, inter alia, about companies and state organisations that were indebted to ICASA, are kept out of the public eye,” Shinn said.

“Of particular concern is the secrecy surrounding the out-of-court settlement reached recently with Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) following its failed court bid earlier to have declared unlawful ICASA’s 2013 actions to seize its equipment because of failure to pay its licence fees.”

The company lost a case against ICASA in April over outstanding dues, but one of its directors said the company did not agree with the judgment and would appeal.

Shinn said ICASA on Friday gave a joint meeting with Parliament’s portfolio committees on Telecommunications and Postal Service and Communications a brief update of all the legal issues currently exercising the regulator, but failed to list the WBS issue.

She said ICASA council chairperson Dr Stephen Mncube responded “vaguely” to questions on the issue, saying it had been settled through consultation between ICASA and WBS lawyers, with the settlement approved by the council. However, an ICASA lawyer present at the meeting was unable to give details of the payment terms of the settlement.

“It was explained to the committees that this was a complex settlement and Dr Mncube promised to furnish the committees with details of the settlement and payment schedule,” Shinn said, saying she would ask parliamentary questions about the WBS deal and any possible settlements with other high-profile debtors to help determine whether ICASA has been “sufficiently robust” in collecting dues.

“I will also ask whether those, including WBS, who are in arrears are using the spectrum for which they have not paid and if so, why. Non-payment of fees entitles ICASA to make the unpaid-for spectrum available to other operators,” she said.

“I will also write to Dr Mncube to ask him to post the council’s minutes on ICASA’s website without further delay.”

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