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Icasa red-faced in parliament

Mar 22 2011 11:59 I-Net Bridge

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Cape Town - Icasa councillors have been forced to apologise to members of parliament's Communications Committee for creating confusion in their documentation.

On Tuesday morning, the telecommunications and broadcasting regulator was supposed to present its strategic plan for the coming financial year to the Communications Committee .

Also present were various industry observers, including regulatory experts from Telkom [JSE:TKG], e.tv and Multichoice.

In its strategic plan, Icasa details what it will use its R315m budget for, and that it could possibly ask parliament for another R100m in order to carry out reforms needed to enhance its effectiveness.

The authority has frequently been the target of heavy criticism from parliament and the private sector, due to inefficiencies that have resulted in court cases challenging its various decisions and regulations.

It has also been accused of taking so long to issue its decisions that private companies have missed opportunities.

As the hearing was meant to start, it emerged that Icasa had presented two documents to the committee.

One document was an expanded version of the original that was tabled before parliament on March 9, but was only delivered to the politicians on Friday, March 18.

Icasa councillors attempted to explain that the second document merely expanded in more detail the content contained in the first.

However, the politicians were not impressed. They pointed out that, in terms of procedure, they were only supposed to deal with the document that was presented to the Speaker of parliament.

Furthermore, a letter written by Communications Minister Roy Padayachie was read out, in which he objected to Icasa presenting a 157-page document to the Communications Committee three days ahead of the meeting.

"In theory we cannot deal with a document that the Speaker has not seen," said Democratic Alliance communications spokesperson Natasha Michael.

ANC members were initially divided on what to do, but held a brief caucus.

On their return, ANC MP Stella Ndabeni said: "The (ANC part of) the committee has decided that Icasa must go back to the drawing board and decide what they want to present and simplify it."

Icasa chairperson Stephen Mncube apologised profusely, saying that it was due to "over-zealousness on the part of Icasa".

He explained that after watching other state-owned entities presenting, Icasa had realised that more detail was required to supplement its original documentation.

The DA accepted that explanation.

Communications Committee chairperson Eric Kholwane then ruled the hearing would not continue.

"But all state-owned entities must bear in mind that they must follow procedures properly in order for parliament to consider the documentation properly, otherwise it is all just a waste of time and money," he said.

icasa  |  roy padayachie  |  ict
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