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Don’t hold Gov’t accountable for mobile tariff increment

…Deputy Minister of Information

April 7, 2017 By Mohamed Masasaquoi

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Deputy Minister of Information, Cornelius Deveaux: playing the devil’s advocate

Deputy Minister of Information and Communications has noted that government should not be held responsible for the sharp increment in mobile tariff, but rather citizens should questioned civil society members who were at a special meeting organised by the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) in collaboration with the mobile service providers.

Cornelius Deveaux said the public were now accusing government, specifically the Ministry of Information and Communications to have allowed mobile service providers increase their tariff.

He said before mobile service providers increased their tariff, a lot of issues were considered, adding that the 2006 Telecommunications Act clearly stated as to how mobile tariff should be increased in the country.

 “Government has nothing to do with this increment. We have rolled out the fiber optic which is an important opportunity the mobile service providers should make use of at this time,” he said.

It could be recalled that during a public private dialogue involving the National Telecommunications Commission, mobile companies, internet service providers and civil society groups at Bintumani Hotel last Thursday, 23rd March, 2017, the Consumer Protection Agency gave  green light to telecom operators in the country to increase their tariff.

The dialogue forum   was attended by managing directors of various telecom operators, Internet Service Providers, Consumer Protection Agency, Civil Society Organisations, Market Women, Drivers Union, Okada Riders Union and Ataya Base Union.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Chairman of the National Telecommunication Commission, Momoh Konte, said the commission was established by an Act of Parliament in 2006, with responsibility to regulate telecom companies and promote the interest of consumers in making sure that they enjoy quality facilities provided by the said companies.

He said inasmuch as they were protecting the interest of consumers, they also have a responsibility to promoting the interest of GSM companies, so that they would continue to operate and provide employment for citizens.

He said the days were gone when GSM operators would just sit in their offices and increase tariff without any consultation with consumers, hence they at the National Telecommunication Commission of Sierra Leone introduced the Public Private Dialogue system, where consumers and stakeholders have the opportunity to meet with operators and dialogue on the issue of tariffs.

Also speaking, former Minister of Information and Communications, Hon. Ibrahim Ben-Kargbo, a member of the Communication Committee in Parliament, said telecom operators were confronted with lots of challenges due to the current dire economic situation in the country.

He said the lack of adequate electricity supply in the country was seriously affecting the operators, and that the increase in fuel prices, high foreign exchange rate and taxation were all affecting the communication industry in the country.

He urged operators to provide quality services to their consumers so that at the end of the day everybody would be satisfied.

However, Managing Directors from the various telecom companies and internet service providing companies highlighted their challenges, stressing on the wanton increase in fuel prices and the foreign exchange rate.

They also cited lack of sufficient electricity supply as precipitating an excessive use of fuel to provide services to customers; hence they have thought it fit to increase tariffs so that they would keep running their businesses.

Meanwhile, President and Chief Executive of the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA), Ibrahim Kabbia, and others agreed that due to the current situation in the country, telecom operators should increase their tariff, with the condition that they must provide quality services to consumers.