SANDF racks up R189 million ICASA bill – report


ICASA is owed more than R60 million by WBS, but while some insiders at the regulator are apparently pushing for a settlement.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) has allowed the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to rack up a R189 million bill for spectrum the army uses to communicate, reports Sunday Times.

It has come to light in recent months that the regulator is locked in disputes with Vodacom and Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) regarding unpaid licensing fees, ITWeb reports.

According to Sunday Times, the amount owed by SANDF has emerged from ICASA’s financial turnaround plan. It is not clear why the regulator allowed the bill to balloon to this extent, it says.

ICASA is owed more than R60 million by WBS, but while some insiders at the regulator are apparently pushing for a settlement, others want more cash, reports the newspaper. WBS CEO Thami Mtshali says WBS is keen to settle the matter outside of court, the paper notes,

The parties reportedly went to court on 10 June and are now awaiting the court order which is expected at the end of July or early next month. ICASA is attempting to settle with Vodacom and the Sunday Times says the regulator is also trying to reach a settlement with SANDF.

The newspaper states ICASA’s annual report for 2011/12 showed the auditor-general had given it a qualified audit opinion for the third year running, citing a lack of controls over the invoicing and collection of licence fee revenue.

Vodacom took the regulator to court last month after Icasa tried to change its mind over the licensing fees for 2012. In August 2010, ICASA revised its licensing fees in an effort to level the playing field between state-owned and private companies. It said the new fees will kick in from April 2011 and Vodacom paid its fees according to this new rule.

ICASA then changed its mind and delayed the fees by a year, citing it did not have the equipment to calculate the new fees.

Under the new fees Vodacom would have saved R77.8 million, money it now refuses to pay to ICASA. Should Vodacom win the case, it could open the way for other telecoms companies to claim back the extra fees they paid.

The newspaper reports ICASA spokesperson Paseka Maleka declined to comment on the number of disputes the regulator finds itself in, saying ICASA will only comment when discussions have been finalised.