Namibia: Strained MTC, Cran Relationship Under Microscope

The parliamentary standing committee on public accounts on Monday grilled Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC) over its sour relationship with the regulator, and claims of an outstanding debt.

The chairperson of the standing committee, Dudu Murorua, questioned MTC during a consultation in Windhoek on why the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) complained of a deteriorating relationship between the two.

Murorua also asked about the allegations of the outstanding amount MTC owes Cran.

Cran had a similar meeting with the parliamentary standing committee on information, communication, technology and innovation three weeks ago during which chief executive officer Emilia Nghikembua complained about outstanding fees MTC owes and the relationship between the two entities.

Cran claimed MTC and Telecom Namibia together owe the regulator some N$300 million in outstanding levies, interest and penalties.

MTC head Licky Erastus admitted there may be some friction with Cran.

He, however, attributed this to a normal working relationship between any dominant player and the regulator.

"Because we are the dominant operator and the objectives and mandate of the regulator are to enable fair competition in the market, sometimes we may feel that the regulations may not be good for MTC. There are platforms where we engage and give our views and input - some are accepted and others not," he said.

One of these rough patches came after Cran granted the City of Windhoek a class comprehensive telecommunications service licence, which meant the municipality owned the land and the ability to offer telecommunications services.

MTC was considering legal action against the regulator, saying its decision is "anti-competitive" and against the Communications Act.

The company further said when such authorisation is requested from a competitor, it can slow down approvals to its own benefit.

OUTSTANDING FEES

MTC's legal services head Patience Kangueehi-Kanalelo yesterday explained that a High Court judgement that was upheld by the Supreme Court agreed with the company's argument that the act was not constitutional, in that section 23 (2) (a) of the act gives Cran unlimited discretion in levying revenue and taxation, which should be reserved for the legislature.

In 2019, judge Harald Geier commented in a judgement that Cran's powers set out in the act do not extend to debt-collection services.

He ruled in favour of a legal challenge that MTC mounted against a Cran decision requiring the telecommunications company to inform the public that by law a debt collection fee of no more than 10% could be levied on unpaid bills of MTC customers.

Geier reviewed and set aside Cran's decision taken on 30 August 2017 that MTC had to communicate to the public that they are by law required to pay only a 10% debt-collection fee, and not a collection commission of 18%.

He determined that Cran acted outside the confines of the powers conferred on it by the act when it decided that MTC had to inform its customers they were compelled by law to pay no more than a 10% debt-collection fee on debts handed over to a debt-collection agency, Geier said.

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