The Senate yesterday overwhelmingly endorsed an exhaustive report by its Committee on Post and Telecommunications, concerning unregistered SIM Cards by the various telecommunications operators.
The committee’s report came as a result of a letter from Grand Kru County Senator Albert Chie who raised concern that unregistered SIM Cards in the wrong hands may pose security threats to the country.
In the report, the Committee chaired by Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence noted that all of the commissioners of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) disclosed several challenges that made the SIM Card registration process difficult.
The challenges, according to the report, include: the lack of citizen identification, either by passport and work ID cards, to track subscribers, was making it very difficult to have an efficient and effective process; also the lack of equipment to track the entire process as it is done in many countries.
The LTA, according to the Lawrence Committee report, also blamed bad road conditions or lack of accessibility to many places with network where SIM cards are registered or exist; and that the LTA has not gotten a budget approval for payment of international dues that could help build its capacity.
The Committee in its recommendation called on plenary to request the Committees on Internal Affairs and Ways, Means and Finance to address the concerns on the plans of citizen identification cards.
The Committee also recommended that it collaborate with the Committee on Ways, Means and Finance to investigate the financial reports of the LTA, and study the request for equipment and international dues payment for budget adjustment, and that the report provides justification that the equipment will increase efficiency and effectiveness in the regulation process and will also increase revenue for the country’s benefit.
The Committee also wants plenary to further mandate the two committees to meet with the Commissioner General of the LTA and the Ministry of Finance to confirm that authority was given to the LTA to negotiate fines; and that the LTA be made to revisit the policy of the payment of fines and include a clause for adjustment as it relates to the challenges until government meets its obligation.
The Committee displayed report sheets showing that, from 2012 to present, the telecommunications operators have refused to pay the fines that amount in the millions of United States dollars, even after reduction on the basis that they did not violate because the government of Liberia has still not met up with its obligation.
The Senators, earlier debating the report condemned excuses from the LTA, some describing them as “poor and flimsy,” and highly questionable that LTA management waived millions of United Dollars worth of fines imposed on violators.
“We are at the verge of financial bankruptcy and some public corporation is waiving millions that need to build up the budget; we need to be more serious and assertive,” Senator Dan Morais said.
For his part, Grand Cape Mount County Ranking Senator Varney G. Sherman refused to blame the LTA in entirety. He suggested that a portion of the current budget be put aside for the printing and issuance of an identification card system that can be used for several purposes, such as passport, birth certificate and even electoral purposes as is the case in developing and developed countries like the United States.
Sen Nyonblee Karnga LawrenceMeanwhile, the Committee on Banking and Currency yesterday made its long differed report to plenary on the disturbing depreciation of the Liberian dollar (currently L$95 to US$1) to the United States dollar. Debate on that report will, however, be held on Tuesday.