ICASA is making the ICT sector to work

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No person within ICASA is in denial about the problems (both internal and external) that the organisation faces and the reasons why the organisation has performed so poorly. Neither are we ignorant about the mammoth task that lies ahead if we are to turn the organisation around. By Willington Ngwepe, chief operations officer of ICASA


The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa today tabled its 2014-15 Annual Report to Parliament. The report presents an overview of the Authority’s performance for the 2014-15FY. It paints a bleak picture of the Authority’s performance during the past financial period.

The organisation is sitting at a desolate performance rate of 29%, meaning of all the targets we have set for ourselves (at least those on which the Auditor-General (“A-G”) measures us against) we only achieved 29%.  This 29% is understandable when one considers the key findings by the A-G which are, amongst others:

  • that we have underspent on our conditional grants,
  • that our performance information is inadequate / unreliable,
  • that our internal controls are deficient (including SCM processes), and
  • That we have not managed National Revenue Fund (“NRF”) receivables well.

No person within ICASA is in denial about the problems (both internal and external) that the organisation faces and the reasons why the organisation has performed so poorly. Neither are we ignorant about the mammoth task that lies ahead if we are to turn the organisation around.

In the midst of this bleak picture, it is important to highlight the notable achievements by the Authority in the past year. These are the following:

  • We have received an unqualified audit for a 3rd consecutive year. Obviously the ultimate aspiration is a clean audit. However the fact that the organisation’s finances have been unqualified three years in succession means that the organisation is on the right track. This means we have the capacity to improve on our controls as well as our performance.
  • The impact of the Authority’s achieved strategic achievements have been of immense benefit e.g.:
  • we played a significant role in facilitating free and fair national elections during the 2014-15 FY by ensuring equitable treatment of political parties by broadcasters;
  • the wholesale call termination regulations have significantly changed pricing behaviour in the market; and
  • the regulatory framework for the licensing of the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum bands is now firmly in place as a result of the promulgation of the IMT Roadmap and the Radio Frequency Spectrum Assignment Plans (RFSAPs).
  • Finally, our performance on day-to-day operational activities undertaken by the people in the organisation in service to industry and consumers are not measured by the AG as they are mainly operational activities and not strategic, keeps the sector functioning. These includes the assignment of spectrum not subject to extended procedures, processing of numbering applications, issuing of type approval certificates, administrative processes relating to licence transfers; amendments; etc. I know there is still room for improvement from a service provision and turn-around time perspective. However, this is the one area where we continue (mostly behind the scenes) to make improvements on a day-to-day basis.

During the briefing to Parliament, we committed that the performance for the current financial year (2015-16) will be far better than the past year and that the organisation will improve on its performance.iPhone6s-2Up-HeroFish700X300

We believe the measures we have taken so far send a clear message that ICASA is working. For the first time in many years, the leadership of the organisation took the firm view not to pay any performance bonuses to all staff due to the desolate performance.

This has sent a clear message to all in the organisation that everyone will be held accountable for non-delivery going forward. We have also positioned the organisation, both structurally and functionally, to perform.

The organisational realignment / restructuring is now complete and all divisions are aligned to work collaboratively to deliver on the organisational mandate. Furthermore, the requisite performance contracts, aligned to the organisational strategic deliverables, are in place for all in the organisation, especially the leadership team.

For the current financial year the organisation has targeted to achieve at least 65% of its regulatory (and other business) targets. We will achieve this target!!

Whilst it is important to focus on resolving the internal challenges and get the organisation working effectively and efficiently, we have not lost focus of what matters i.e. making the sector work for the benefit of all in our country. To this end, we have already embarked on the following critical processes (some of which are long term, multi-year projects):

Social cohesion

We have published the draft regulations on municipal elections for consultation. We will work with the Independent

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Electoral Commission and all key stakeholders to ensure that the appropriate rules are in place to ensure that broadcasters treat all political parties fairly and equitably during the election period.

Broadband deployment

 Spectrum

In recognition of the fact that spectrum is the life-blood of the industry, we have recently published the draft information memorandum on the licensing of the 2.6 GHz, 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands. The licensing process will proceed without delay as soon as the necessary policy prerequisites are satisfied. We are also consulting on the regulatory framework for access to and usage of E and V Band spectrum bands.

Infrastructure

Deployment of and access to broadband infrastructure remains one of the major priorities for the regulator and government. It is through diffusion of broadband infrastructure networks that the country’s noble Broadband Policy objectives can be achieved. The Authority is working with the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) on infrastructure deployment initiatives including the rapid deployment policy guidelines as required in terms of Chapter 4 of the ECA.

The Authority also has published a consultation document on Infrastructure Sharing which is taking place in parallel with the project on regulatory impact assessment on wholesale open access.  The outcome of these regulatory processes will inform the regulatory and licensing framework for network service licensees going forward.

Finally the Authority is encouraged by the recently announced improvements in South Africa’s standing in the World Economic Forum’s survey. We hope to see further improvements in the next year as we continue to implement the necessary measures to make the sector work.

 

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