By Mohamed Sesay
Civil Society Consortium on Community Accountability and Service Delivery has yesterday issued a 14- day ultimatum to telecom operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), to uphold their statutory mandates by paying their annual dues for the successful operations of the Universal Access and Development Fund (UADF).
Addressing journalists yesterday at the Accountability Now office in Freetown, National Coordinator for the CSO Consortium on Service Delivery, William M.B Sao Lamin, dilated on the historical background of the UADF, which he said, was established through the Telecommunications Act of 2006 and a statutory instrument passed in Parliament on the 17th October, 2019.
He said the UADF was established to promote social and economic development by providing efficient access of communication systems and services in the rural and under-serviced areas, ensure reasonable availability and affordability of advanced communication systems to persons with disabilities, support the development of information and communication technologies, provide support for the introduction and expansion of communication services, and facilitate development and access of wide range of local content to enhance constitutional responsibilities of the Universal Access and Development Fund gearing towards ensuring mobile operators comply with the statutory regulations.
He said it was against that backdrop that the consortium has given a 14-day ultimatum to GSM operators and Internet Service Providers, to pay their annual statutory dues.
He added that any mobile company that fails to comply with the 14 days ultimatum would face possible sanctions, ranging from the closure of their operations, among others.
He said mobile companies and internet service providers that have failed to pay their annual revenue within the last two years would have to comply and pay all their backlogs.
Sao Lamin urged that GSM operators and internet service providers should provide their 2019 financial statements to the National Revenue Authority (NRA) within the same 14 days period.
He reminded GSM operators and Internet Service Providers to uphold the statutory mandates by paying their annually dues, adding that most of the internet service providers have never contributed or adhered to their statutory mandates to pay dues to UDAF.
He noted that the UADF is extremely challenged financially in exhibiting their mandates to serve under-serviced communities because GSM operators and Internet Service Providers were not paying their annual dues.
He also urged Mobile Company Operators and Internet Service Providers to extend their services across the country, especially in deprived communities.
"As a consortium that believes in service delivery, we are also urging them to have coverage across the country. If you go to No. 2 River Community, there are certain areas around that community that lack access to all mobile coverages. In as much as we believe that they are doing business, as a Civil Society who believes in service delivery, we are calling on them to provide their annual financial statements to NRA within 14 days period," he concluded.
On his part, the Media Outreach Officer for the consortium,Daniel S. Pewah, emphasised that Internet Service Providers are mostly in constant breech of paying their annually dues.
He continued that mobile companies and internet service providers mostly make their profits during crisis time, but fail to pay their annual revenues.
He added that the annual revenue paid by internet service providers and mobile companies doesn't go directly into an individual pocket, but rather for the development and expansion of communication services across the country.