MACRA hits back at Chikaonda, defends spy machine

The corporate battle rages on. The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has hit back to a host of ‘unpalatable’ issues Press Corporation boss Professor Mathews Chikaonda observed on the operations of the state owned ICT regulator.

Chikaonda stirred the hornet nest on 24th July, 2012 during the official opening of the National Bank of Malawi Towers in Blantyre when he accused Macra of maladministration and losing focus of its primary operations by among other things paying a MK800 million divided to government instead of using the money to develop ICT infrastructure in rural areas.

In a paid full page statement in the local press on Monday, Macra described Chikaonda’s statement “not only as baseless” but a distortion and a gross misrepresentation of regulator’s operations as mandated in the Communications Act.

“It is very tragic when some people speak with authority on issues they have limited knowledge about. In a world where access to information has been made possible by various technologies… it is Macra’s expectation that people will take time to research on issues and comment based on facts rather than unfounded sentiments which can lead to misinformation,” reads part of the statement signed by management.

Nsaliwa: MACRA boss in defence of spy machine

 Controversial dividend

On the MK800 million dividend to government, Macra said the payment was statutory and went to quote section 12 (e) (5) of the Communications Act.

“All moneys of the Authority which, in the opinion of the Minister, are in excess of its budgetary requirements shall be paid into the Consolidated Fund, but the Authority shall be entitled to retain sums as it reasonably requires for its operations.”

Macra says it has always paid surplus to government since its establishment but does not indicate how much it has paid so far nor tabulate those payment on yearly basis but concentrated in attacking Chikaonda.

“It is therefore surprising that Chikaonda showed lack of basic understanding of financial operations of a statutory corporation,” it claimed.

Macra invoked the usual ‘corporate social responsibility’ mantra saying like any public institution it has obligations to respond to such requests which it has done many times.

But apart from the cloth it has paid for former ruling DPP, Macra failed to mention other instances where its corporate social responsibility benefited Malawians regardless of political affiliation.

“Macra would like to categorically refute that… it abused resources by buying ‘nsalu ya chipani ya DPP‘ as it does not respond to CSR requests bordering on party politics,” the statement said.

 ‘Spy machine’

Macra said it does not want to be drawn into arguments about an issue that is in court as such issues are sub judice.

“The purported ‘Spy Machine’ known as the Consolidated ICT Regulatory Management Systems (CIRMS) is not in way a Spy machine as some sectors would want the general public to believe. Further, the mere mention of the subject matter at an irrelevant forum has tremendously increased raised eye-brows among Malawians,” it noted.

Macra says in the absence of a national ICT policy in Malawi to govern the operations of the ICT sector in Malawi, the authority is drawing its regulatory mandate from Communications Act (1998).

The Authority said because it released the gap in terms of service provision between urban and rural areas, it lobbied for the passing of a national ICT policy to encompass the establishment of a Rural Communications Development Fund.

“With funding from the World Bank, a Universal Access (UA) policy was drafted which proposed the establishment of the Universal Access Fund (UAF) to cater for rural and underserved areas.

“However, in waiting for passing of the policy, Macra with world Bank funding implemented the Universal Access Pilot project 10 (points of presence) and 1274 public/community pay phones in five selected developmental corridors covering 10 districts namely Mangochi, Nsanje, Zomba, Chitipa, Rumphi, Neno, Mwanza, Mulanje and Phalombe. The project has completed all establishments except for 50 public telephony sites in Chitipa set for completion this month,” Macra said.

Therefore, the Authority said there has never been an Operational Universal Access Fund established under any ICT policy in Malawi.

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