Wednesday, November 15, 2017

TTCL overhaul looms

Works, Communications and Transport minister,

Works, Communications and Transport minister, Prof Makame Mbarawa 

By Citizen Reporter

Dodoma. The government has proposed the establishment of an agency to manage a public telecommunications service.

Works, Communications and Transport minister, Prof Makame Mbarawa, tabled a bill in Parliament yesterday for the establishment of Tanzania Communications Corporation.

If and when enacted, the new law would enable the current Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd (TTCL) to operate as a full-fledged communications corporation with the main objectives of safeguarding the national security, promoting socio-economic development, and managing strategic communications infrastructure.

Issues to be considered in processing the bill include how to enable TTCL to efficaciously operate as a public corporation; tasking the proposed corporation with the responsibility of building, managing and operating the country’s basic communications infrastructure, and creating ‘immunity’ for the corporation’s assets.

According to the minister, the bill is also aimed at statutorily establishing the corporation and its management and operational frameworks; identifying and analysing the corporation’s sources of income, analysing other laws vis-à-vis the envisaged corporation.

At the end of the day, the new parliamentary act will have repealed the legislation that established the Tanzania Telecommunications Limited in the first place – and, thereby, categorically entrenching the communications corporation in place.

Other pertinent issues in the bill are how recruitment of employees for the corporation would be conducted, as well as job descriptions for the corporation’s director-general and the corporation secretary.

Debating the bill in the National Assembly, Members of Parliament faulted the bill for giving too much power to the communications minister. According to some of the MPs who contributed to the debate, a minister of dubious probity could easily misuse or otherwise abuse the powers invested in him or her for nefarious ends.

Presenting the political opposition’s views on the bill in the august House, Dr Immaculate Sware said section 7(7) of the bill gives the minister too much power, which might play havoc with the operations of the envisaged corporation.

“Not only Section 7 (7); Section 9(1) of the bill empowers the minister to issue directives to the corporation’s board,” Dr Sware pointed out.

“An obvious interpretation of Section 9(1) is that decisions of the board of directors must be okayed by the minister before they can be implemented… This automatically denies the board its freedom to act professionally,” Dr Sware lamented.

Representing the Parliamentary Committee on Infrastructure Development in the National Assembly, Professor Norman Sigala said that, in order for the corporation to function as intended, then its chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) must have clear, statutory powers to make decisions.

“The corporation’s board of directors and its chief executive officer must be given the independence they need to use their professionalism for the betterment of the corporation. So, I think there is a need to amend these two sections,” Prof. Sigala said.

MPs from both the ruling party and the political opposition in the Parliament seemed to have agreed to work together on pushing for an increase in the number of representatives from Zanzibar in the proposed corporation.

Presenting his speech on the bill, Minister Mbarawa said that Zanzibar would have one representative on the five-member board of directors. The Walezo constituency MP, Ms Saada Mkuya – who is a former finance and planning minister in the Union Government – said Zanzibar must have at least two representatives on the board.

She also proposed that the new corporation must have a permanent representative in Zanzibar.

In the event, she found support for both her proposals in fellow legislator in Special Seats MP Cecilia Paresso.

For his part, the Liwale constituency MP Zubery Kuchauka (CUF) called on the government to explain in Parliament why TTCL was privatized in the first place.

“I wonder why the government wants to venture into business before explaining to Parliament why TTCL was privatized in the first place,” Kuchauka insisted.

Last month, the state-run TTCL had the Sh76.6 billion debt it owed the government converted into capital – thus making it a 100 per cent state-owned entity, Treasury Registrar Oswald Mashindano revealed this at a recent press conference.

Dr Mashindano explained that the minister for finance, Dr Philip Mpango, invoked Section 5(3) and Section 9 of the Finance Act (Cap 348 of the Laws of Tanzania) to ‘convert’ the debt into capital.

According to Dr Mashindano, the move was aimed at enabling TTCL to list its shares with the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange (DSE).