LTA Surrenders US$200m In Fines To GSM Firms – Senate Probe
By Wilfred Gortor, LINA
MONROVIA, July 5 (LINA) - An investigation conducted by the Liberian Senate has unveiled that the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) has over time waived a total of US$200 million to GSM service providers in the country.
The report of the probe, which was conducted by the Senate's committee on Post and Telecommunication, was presented to the Senate's plenary on Tuesday.
It disclosed that this amount was a cumulative total of fines imposed on GSM providers as the result of several violations carried out in the sector.
The investigation also shows that the LTA is unable to track registered users of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) throughout the country, something which the LTA, according to the report, has attributed to factors such as the lack of road network and citizen identification cards, and other constraints.
The Senate has, however, endorsed recommendations from its committee calling on the body to address some of these problems being experienced by the LTA so that the regulatory body can perform its duties efficiently.
Some Senators, who participated in the debate following the reading of the committee's report to the plenary, think that the LTA has overtime reneged on its obligations to adequately regulate the telecommunication sector.
Grand Kru County Senator Albert Chea believes that this act on the part of the LTA not to properly track SIM cards being registered and used in the country has the propensity to expose the nation to security risks such as acts of terrorism.
"This act on the part of some regulatory authorities to deliberately default in performing their duties must be put to an end," Maryland County Senator Dan Morais stated.
According to Morais, his statement was predicated upon recent action on the part of the Liberia Telecommunication Corporation (LIBTELCO), a public-owned company, to engage in a dubious transaction in which it attempted to acquire NOVAFONE, a privately-owned company.
But Grand Cape Mount Senator Varney Sherman opines that more investigation needs to be conducted so that the Senate can have a proper understanding on the reasons why the LTA would waive an amount which is about one-third of the nation's budget to GSM service providers.
Sherman, who is a corporate lawyer, emphasized that there are legal implications surrounding the imposition of "excessive fine," and that such fines are often not necessary.