ICASA to re-align structure for improved regulation

December 11th, 2014, Published in Articles: EngineerIT


The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is in the process of re-organising its structure or, as the chairperson Dr. Stephen Mncube said in an exclusive interview with EngineerIT  “to re-align the structure to be a better regulator.” He said that a new structure was developed to remove silos in the organisation, to streamline decision making and to provide a speedier service to meet the fast changing shape of the communications scene in South Africa.  “The structure was approved by the ICASA Council and discussed with the unions and staff who supported the changes. We have been working hard to implement the new structure from January 2015.”

ICASA Chairperson Dr SS.Mncube

ICASA chairperson Dr. Stephen Mncube

“When I was appointed chairperson I said that my first priority was to obtain a clean audit report each year. We have achieved this for the past two years. Taking a close look at the way ICASA was structured, we came to the realisation that we had too many silos. For instance, applications for spectrum had to be reviewed by various departments – resulting in unnecessary delays as each section had to add their stamp of approval. We proved that it could work better. A good example of this was when a few days before the memorial service and laying to rest of past-president Nelson Mandela, we handled and licensed spectrum for over 90 envoys and media organisations within a few days. If we could achieve it then, why not in the future?”

He said they expect that some of the re-organisation may not run as smoothly as set out on paper, but plans are in place to deal with any hiccups as quickly as possible. “We want to make ICASA run more efficiently and offer a faster service.”

It is also on the cards that licensing may be decentralised to the regional offices which then will bring ICASA closer to where the action is required. That may be easier said than done, as ICASA would have to a have a robust licencing management and linked financial system in place, accessible from all the regional offices. Tender procedures and all that goes with it, are painfully slow so it may be sometime before that can be implemented.  There are also plans to expand the regional structure to have an ICASA office in each province, which is not currently the case.

“We have had our difficulties,” said Dr. Mncube. A frequent change of ministers, each coming with their own ideas, certainly did not make things easy.  While the public, industry and media may criticise their appointments, we have to adjust and continue doing the best possible to meet our objectives,” he said.

Having to answer to two ministers cannot be an easy task. To some extent President Jacob Zuma has defined their responsibilities in a protocol published on 2 December 2014 in the Government Gazette.  In terms of the Constitution the president transferred the powers and functions to the two new cabinet portfolios and the appointees.

Opposition parties and the media remain critical of the decision of the president and do not agree with his notion that it is in the interest of the way forward in achieving vison 2020 and broadband for all. However, says Dr. Mncube, “We at ICASA have no option but to make it work.”

The protocol has clarified the responsibilities of the two ministries. Functionally ICASA reports to Minister Faith Muthambi and for matters concerning the Electronic Communications Act to Dr. Siyabonga Cwele.  It therefore makes sense that Dr. Mncube accompanied Dr. Cwele to the recent International Telecommunications Union meeting in Korea. It is however important that the two ministers have a workable memorandum of understanding between them.

“We often read in the media how well telecommunications is managed in other African countries like Kenya and Malawi. To me it is strange that so many African regulators visit us in Sandton to learn how we regulate in South Africa,” said Dr. Mncube.

“At a recent meeting of SADC ministers at the Communication Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa (CRASA), a  proposal for communication within the SADC region to be treated as local was agreed. The agreement was brokered during the year that ICASA chaired the CRASA meetings. “It is now up to the minister to decide on the sociality of the proposal and how to apply it.”

Dr. Mncube said that the overriding objective of ICASA is to facilitate the minimising of cost and maximising the use of ICT in South Africa. “We have shown this determination in our efforts in lowering interconnect rates, monitoring quality of service and engaging with all levels of industry and communities to work towards a more prosperous South Africa where communication is one of the most important economic drivers.

“I have less than a year before my contract ends. I am determined to meet the objectives I set myself to transform ICASA to be a world class regulator.” said Dr. Mncube.

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