Sierra Leone’s National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) last Friday – June 10, 2016 – imposed a fine of 250 Million Leones (Le250M) – equivalent to US $62,500 – on the Sierra Leone Transnational Limited, the country’s sole agent for Multi Choice Africa, for what NATCOM described as “exploitation” of susbcribers.
“We at NATCOM, our business is to regulate the business spectrum of how all mobile and IPS operators operate in the country,” NATCOM’s Director of Communications, Abdul Kuyeteh told the media.
The Sierra Express quoted Kuyeteh as having said that the action came “barely three months since they decided to take stance against mobile and IPS operators,” adding that “on the 9th of May 2016, Transnational exorbitantly increased their charges.”
“After NATCOM carefully investigated the exchange rate of the Leone to the Dollar, it found out that Transnational (SL) over-valued the dollar rate to the detriment of consumers…The general exchange rate is Le6,350 to the Dollar $1 but that Transnational enjoyed a swift transfer exchange rate of Le6,250 to the Dollar from Ecobank,” Kuyeteh told reporters according to Sierra Express.
NATCOM discovered that the company charged consumers Le 6,500.00, making an extra profit of Le1,800.00 from each subscriber. “We all agreed that there should be no increase,” he said.
“So as a Commission responsible to regulate their functions, we wrote them a letter asking them to revise their decision over the cost increment because they did not consult the Commission as was agreed by both parties in our last meeting,” Kuyateh explained.
In his statement, Momoh Konte, the NATCOM Chairman, said that after assuming office he engaged the company in a meeting wherein fruitful discussions were held. He reiterated that they at NATCOM regulate operators in the country to protect consumers, charging that Transnational is undermining the country’s Stock Exchange.
Said Konte: “The Commission sees this as undermining the economy of the country which is unacceptable. At least we expect them to use the normal exchange rate – Le 6,350.00.”
He added: “As a Commission, we are not interested in fines; we want the right thing to be done within the confines of the laws of the country so we have therefore given them a seven working days ultimatum to pay the fine.”
Making his contribution, Commissioner Ambassador Alieu Kanu of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) described the fining of the company as good news for the people of this country because, according to him, for far too long they have been exploited. “So we all as implementing partners are in full support of the action taken by NATCOM,” he noted.
He said they had had a lot of consultations with NATCOM and underlined that Section 7(2) of the IMC Act empowers NATCOM to levy fines against non-compliant operators who fail to comply with the country’s Telecoms Act.