Source: Potraz gives telecom firms reprieve to settle outstanding licence fees | Sunday News (Business)
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has given telecommunication firms a reprieve to settle their outstanding operational licence fees in instalments in light of the macro-economic conditions prevailing in the country.
Speaking at a media forum in Kadoma recently, Potraz director general Dr Gift Machengete told journalists that virtually all telecommunication companies operating in the country were in arrears with regards to the payment of their licence fees.
He, however, could not be drawn to disclose the amount the telecommunication providers owed but said it ran into millions of dollars and has been accumulating over years.
“Telecommunication operators are not up to date with their licences, partly because they blame or claim it is because of the current economic situation and this has led us as the regulator to seek authority to have them pay in instalments. Initially we would not allow them to pay in instalments because they had to pay everything up front but because of the current difficulties we had to go to the law and now we have a Statutory Instrument that allows us to negotiate with them,” said Dr Machengete.
He said the telecommunications regulator decided to be “lenient” after realisation that most of the operators were indigenous that were making efforts to grow their businesses.
“Most of the operators are indigenous with some providing internet and other telecommunication services, all these are supposed to be paying fees but we haven’t cancelled their licenses because of the economic situation and we have been looking at the fact that most of them are indigenous so we would want them to grow, so we have been a bit lenient on them,” Dr Machengete.
He said the law also empowers the telecommunications regulator to audit the service providers’ financial statements.
“Now we have a statutory instrument that allows us to negotiate with them, to look at their financials and see whether it’s true that they cannot pay up front. If it is true because we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, we then look at what they can pay and we negotiate and then they pay in instalments,” said Dr Machengete.
Potraz was established in terms of the Postal and Telecommunication Act (Chapter 12:05) of 2000 and is mandated to issue licences in the postal and telecommunication sectors. In pursuit of this responsibility, Potraz performs numerous functions which include allocating the radio frequency spectrum in Zimbabwe, ensuring that the quality of postal and telecommunication services meet acceptable standards, promoting and encouraging the innovative development of postal and telecommunication services.
Potraz represents Zimbabwe internationally in matters relating to postal and telecommunication services, monitoring tariffs charged for services to ensure affordability, promoting the interests of consumers in terms of quality, variety and availability of services, promoting competition among players in the sector as well as to ensure the provision of sufficient domestic and international telecommunication and postal services throughout the country.-@DNsingo