Cran seeks regulatory levy back

The Communication Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) is financially crippled and unable to pursue a plethora of projects and has been forced to scale down on its operations due to the scarcity of resources at its disposal.

This due to the fact that Cran is currently unable to collect the Regulatory Levy from providers of communication services, its chief executive officer (CEO) Festus Mbandake told Nampa recently.

The Regulatory levy is one of the key revenue streams that Cran has to enable it to regulate the industry. As a result, since the court's ruling, we have had to scale down on the operations, scale down on some of our business plans and projects because the resources that we have can no enable us to implement those projects or to resource the organisation in terms of more new positions, [purchase] equipment or to do more activities to regulate the industry properly, Mbandeka said.

This levy constituted around 60 per cent of Cran's total revenue.

As things stand at the regulatory authority, even its sustainability is under siege.

Mbandeka could however not say how much in monetary terms Cran can potentially generate from the levy yearly as it depends on the annual turnover of each organisation.

Head of Legal Services and Regulatory Affairs at telecommunications giants MTC, Patience Kanalelo told this Section 23 of the Communications Act needs a revisit as it gives Cran too much discretion.

MTC is of the view particularly Section 23 (3) (a) which gives Cran the power to impose different percentages or different fixed amounts providers of communication services or categories of such providers is unreasonably discriminatory.

There are just two critical things that need to be addressed. Firstly, the discrimination of trying to discriminate in percentages to the different licensees. We feel that is against the [fair] competition. The second issue that Cran wants to recover its past regulatory costs on something that was already declared unconstitutional. We feel that need to be addressed and corrected, Kanalelo said.

Last year, the Supreme Court found that section 23(2)(a) of the Communications Act which gives the Cran the power to impose a regulatory levy on providers of communications services in Namibia unconstitutional on the ground that it granted uncircumscribed plenary legislative powers to Cran due to the absence of guidelines and limit s for its exercise

The provision has since remained invalid, while the said section is under review through the Communications Amendment Bill.