Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

Cameroon: Special Fund for Telcoms Projects

According to a June 26, 2012 Presidential decree, telephone operators are to each pay 3 per cent of their annual business turnover into an account at the Central Bank opened by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. The amount is to feed a special telecommunications fund code-named "Le Fonds" (The Fund) set up within the framework of the 1998 reforms that came with the liberalisation of the sector.

The Fund permits the State to develop the telecommunications sector by taking telecoms services to where operators cannot by virtue of their profit motive, especially in the rural areas where profit margins are either low or inexistent. With the funds, the State will equally pay the country's contributions in international organisations concerned with information and communication technologies. Sources in the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications say the fund finances telecom projects in the country mounted by the government or operators.

By the June 26 Presidential act, the Fund functions with three counters: One for the universal service, another for the development of electronic communication and the other for the development of information and communication technologies.

Going by the law, committees are to be created to study projects forwarded for financing. The committee has up to November each year to endorse and forward to the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications projects it deems eligible for financing in the forthcoming fiscal year. The Minister in turn proposes to the Prime Minister the priority projects and who is expected to come up with the budget of the Fund and the list of projects to benefit from the financing. Latest December 31, the Minister is expected to furnish the PM with an exhaustive report on the physical and financial execution of the outlined projects. Finance Minister is to appoint an Accountant to carryout financial operations in the Fund and the Finance Controller of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications is to control expenditures in the Fund in line with the rules in force. Other auditors are not excluded given that the Fund is a public utility.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Board, by the decree, is charged with ensuring that the operators effectively pay in the required amount to the account. Like any tax that is paid based on what operators declare as their business turnover, the decree empowers the Telecommunications Regulatory Board to verify the authenticity of the amounts declared. As such, in case of any doubt, the regulator can carry out an audit at the expense of the operator.

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