South Africa: Legislation on its Way to Ensure Icasa is Run Better

Telecoms

The government is finalising the amendment of legislation governing the telecommunications regulator in order to resolve the tension between the organisation's council and its management.

Tension has long existed between the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa's (Icasa's) councillors and its management, headed by CE Karabo Motlana, because of a lack of clarity about their different roles and responsibilities.

Icasa has nine full-time councillors headed by chairman Paris Mashile, whose contract ends in June. The Council's role is to draw up regulations for the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors, while Motlana is responsible for the day- to-day running of the regulator. He is overseen by the council. His contract also ends this year. The structure pits the chairman and the CE against each other.

Ismail Vadi, Chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on communication, said last year that the tension was hampering Icasa's ability to regulate effectively because the council and management worked in opposite directions.

The Icasa Act, which sets out how the organisation is to be run, is due to be implemented in the second half of the year, to coincide with the appointment of a new chair man and three new councillors. "We are close to a solution. Some of the proposals are far-reaching," said communications department director-general Mamodupi Mohlala.

The department was toying with having a combination of full-time and part-time councillors, or only part-timers and a reduced number of councillors, she said. "To some extent it does become difficult when there is a full-time board and CE. It causes confusion even for the staff as there might be contradictory instructions ... You can't have two powerhouses."

Mashile said last week in Parliament that he would prefer a structure similar to that of the Tanzanian Communications Regulatory Authority, which has a board of five members not involved in the daily operations, leaving the director-general to run the organisation.

The department is also finalising a performance evaluation system for councillors, who have been criticised for poor performance. They will be assessed twice a year by the portfolio committee; the minister will also take part in the review panel.

"There are criticisms that Icasa is not performing. But we want to get to the bottom of it and find out who is not performing and why. We don't want the whole institution to be tainted by one or two people," Mohlala said.

Business Day