The National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) yesterday held the second interactive meeting with GSM operators at Mamba Point, to discuss issues relating to high cost of tariffs and inefficient services.
Commissioner of NATCOM Siray Timbo said that, NATCOM faces the huge task that requires considerable information flow from the industry vice versa.
He added that the purpose of the meeting is to jointly address major issues confronting the regulator, as the Commission strives to meet its set goals.
The goals of the Commission, he said are: promoting and regulating market entry; competition and establishing an effective legal frame work for regulating the industry; strengthen and enhance enforcement activities and consumer protection; ensuring the optimal use of the spectrum and other scare national resource; establishing and monitoring standards and establishing public/private partnership.
He pointed out that NATCOM’s position is that prices and tariffs for services or products provided by telecom operators should be cost oriented; adding that current tariffs should be revisited.
Timbo noted that, “we are concerned with high cost of tariffs, poor quality services, anti-competitive activities by some operators, under- utilization of scare national resources, deployment of sub-standard telecoms equipment, leakages and fraud in international tariff, double fee levied on operators by Local Councils and the non adherence to the provisions of the Telecommunications Act 2006”.
The Commissioner pointed out that they subscribe to the view that openness promotes accountability, regulatory credibility and legitimacy which in turn builds stability; which is essential for attracting investment and encouraging expansion in the sector.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Information and Communications, Hon Veronica Sesay said that, the Telecoms Act which established the National Telecoms Commissions clearly spelt out that the commission has the mandate to license and regulate telecoms operators and also promote the universal access to basic telecoms services.
She pointed that the Act also provides fair competition for the benefit of investors and the users of the Telecoms Network and services to improve the national, regional and the global integration of Sierra Leone in telecoms and to promote other related matters.
Minister of Information and Communications Alhaji Ben Kargbo said that telecommunications has played a pivotal role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); adding that the Government has incorporated telecommunications in the reduction of poverty.
He lauded the efforts of GSM operators for fulfilling their cooperate social responsibility; but however stressed that this has to be determined by the Government.
He maintained that development in the telecommunications sector implies that all Chiefdoms have telecentres in their Villages, where they can make and receives calls.
GSM operators and participants who were at the meeting raised certain issues affecting their business including the perception of the public that they are making huge profits; and also the issue regarding monies demanded from them by the Local Councils where they have towers.
By Abibatu Kamara