He said he took up office in in early March 2015 when the other Commissioners were appointed and this was when the entire Board became fully constituted. Before taking up office Momoh revealed, mobile concentration in Sierra Leone was 10% but now leaving it at 73.4% with internet penetration increased from 0.26% to 21%.
According to Mr. Konte, NATCOM is a Statutory Telecommunications Regulatory Authority mandated to Licence and regulates the activities of all licensed Telecommunications Service Providers such as Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other communications service providers in the Country.
He said during his tenure of office, there has been a remarkable growth of the Telecommunications sector and that in regulating the sector, the functions of the Commission include but not limited to promoting efficiency and fair competition, to protect the consumers of Telecommunications services and ensuring the expansion of investment in the telecommunication sector and the progressive development of the telecommunication industry and technology in Sierra Leone.
The Commission, he went on, liaise with operators and other service providers in developing and updating the data relating to Telecommunications, adding that it also acts as the interface between the ITU, CTO, ATU, WATRA & other International Telecommunications Organizations and represents the Country in all International Telecommunications conferences and other related events.
Highlighting challenges faced during his tenure, Momoh listed catching up with the Operators and other service providers which he was now please to say that Sierra Leone is indeed catching up with them.
“The other challenge is that of ensuring that the existing major operators in the Country continue to provide the services in respect of which the Licences were granted. Before my assumption of Office, two of them had already gone out of the market-Comium (SL) Limited and Ambitel (SL) Limited, remaining only two active Operators (Africell (SL) Limited and Orange (SL) Limited plus the State owned Operator, SIERRATEL; the Commission has Five (5) Zonal Offices located in five major Provincial towns including Makeni, Bo, Kenema, Port Loko and Kono Zonal offices.
He said it was also a challenge in ensuring that these zonal offices are fully operational so that the presence of the Commission as a regulator is felt all over the country.
In conclusion, Momoh Konte recommended that the Commission has a Management team headed by a Director-General who is responsible for the day to day administration and management of the Commission. In the performance of these functions, the Commission should encourage and motivate Management and staff of the Commission.
He further recommended that as Chairman of the Board, the primary responsibility in the performance of the functions of the Commission is to ensure regulatory compliance on the part of the operators. Compliance in this context implies not only prompt payment of Licence and other regulatory fees; it also includes general compliance in providing quality of services and the affordability of those services.
The outgoing chairman also stated that communication services are still not accessible by and affordable to a lot of people especially those living in the most remote parts of the country. Generally, the high cost of communications services in the Country is due largely to the high cost of doing business on the part of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the Country. In other words, the effect of multiple taxation imposed on MNOs is being passed on to the consumers by the Operators, thereby making affordability of these services by the general public an uphill task.
Thus, it is recommended that the Commission applies a regulatory intervention to the issue of multiple taxation with a view to have these taxes reviewed favorably in the interest of the sector. This in turn, would encourage the operators to invest more in their network expansion and improve the quality of service as well.
Momoh ended saying: “It is strongly recommended that, the Commission do a follow up on the status of the Draft Communications Act intended to repeal the Telecommunications Act 2006 (as amended). This draft is now almost five years old. The Commission in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communications has conducted several workshops for the validation of this draft. It has already been validated for over two years now. But it still remains a draft and is yet to go to Parliament to be debated on and becomes law. It is also hereby recommended that the Commission should heavily rely on the ECOWAS Supplementary Act 2007 not only in the performance of its regulatory functions, but also in its dealings with other institutions in the Country. Article 12 of these ECOWAS supplementary Acts 2007 makes provision for the financial autonomy of all Telecommunications Regulatory Bodies in the sub region and for the harmonization of policies in the regulation of the Telecommunications sector. The Commission must remain very financially strong so as to effectively regulate the sector and to enable it discharges both its internal and external obligations to external Communications bodies like CTO, ITU and several other Telecommunications organizations. The protection of this financial autonomy and the utilization of its funds is provided for under Section 111 (2) paragraph (b) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 Act No.6 of 1991 and also Section 11A Subsection (4) of the Telecommunications Amendment Act 2009. But if the financial autonomy of the Commission is not guaranteed, then the service providers would have a field day in the provision of their services to consumers, which would not augur well for the Country. It is hereby further recommended that the independence of the Commission should be protected and maintained at all times. The Commission is an independent corporate institution that shall not be subjected to the direction of any authority or person as best practice also demands in the performance of its regulatory functions. This independence is enshrined in Section 10 of the Telecommunications Act 2006 (as amended). Section 13 of the Telecommunications Act 2006 (as amended) provided for the establishment of the Universal Access Development Fund (UADF). It is a Fund created under the Act to ensure that the most remote parts of the Country have access to communication services that are affordable. The Operators are contributing annually to this Fund that is being managed by staff of its own supervised by a Board of Trustees presently chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications. The Commission working in collaboration with its Board of Trustees, is in the process of making UADF autonomous so as to make it separate and distinct from NATCOM. But this is a process and NATCOM is still providing regulatory assistance to UADF so as to ensure effective management and sustainability of the Fund. The continuation of this regulatory assistance is recommended because it is still much needed, until UADF becomes fully autonomous. Procurement of goods and services and all other procurement issues of the Commission are very sensitive in nature. Thus, I hereby also strongly recommend that since there is a procurement committee chaired by the Director General of the Commission, all Members of the Board of Commissioners should not be directly involved in handling any and all procurement issues of the Commission. There is a Finance Sub-Committee set up by the office of the Chairman as Section 12 of the Telecommunications Act 2006 (as amended) provides for the formation of such committees to be headed by a member of the Board. Notwithstanding the formation and composition of these sub-committees including the Finance Sub-Committee, it is also strongly recommended that all members of the Board of Commissioners including the Chairman of the Finance Sub-Committee should not be directly or indirectly involved in handling any and all financial transactions of the Commission.
He closed by thanking all outgoing Board Members, Management and staff of the Commission for their unflinching support to me during his tenure of office