Politics and policy

Kibaki, Raila meddling stalls CCK actions

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The CCK headquarters in Nairobi. Meddling by the Executive has led to a freeze in reduction of calling rates and broadcast firms holding frequencies irregularly. Photo/FILE

The CCK headquarters in Nairobi. Meddling by the Executive has led to a freeze in reduction of calling rates and broadcast firms holding frequencies irregularly. Photo/FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By OKUTTAH MARK

Posted  Tuesday, August 28  2012 at  21:34

In Summary

  • The President’s intervention, which amounts to political meddling in the work of an independent state organ, has for the second time in as many years stopped the industry regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), from lowering the Mobile Termination Rate (MTR).
  • MTR is the price that operators pay each other for calls terminating in their networks from outside and ultimately determines call costs.
  • Mr Kibaki, who has been acting on behalf of Safaricom and Telkom Kenya, issued the directive in a letter to Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo, stating that there should be no change in the MTR until a fresh study of the same is carried out.
  • Prime Minister Raila Odinga, jumped into the CCK’s regulatory mandate with a similar directive on behalf of yet another big business – Royal Media Services.
  • Mr Odinga wrote to the CCK director-general asking him to withdraw the notice he had published of intention to revoke frequencies that the media house is accused of acquiring irregularly.

Consumers of telecommunication services will have to wait longer for a further drop in call costs after President Kibaki once again stopped the planned drop in termination rates.

The President’s intervention, which amounts to political meddling in the work of an independent state organ, has for the second time in as many years stopped the industry regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), from lowering the Mobile Termination Rate (MTR).

MTR is the price that operators pay each other for calls terminating in their networks from outside and ultimately determines call costs.

Mr Kibaki, who has been acting on behalf of two telecoms operators, issued the directive in a letter to Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo, stating that there should be no change in the MTR until a fresh study of the same is carried out.

“This office has received communication dated July 11, 2012, from your minister authorising the acting director-general of CCK to effect the new MTR before conducting a study that will bring this matter to rest,” read part of the letter to Dr Ndemo and signed by Nick Wanjohi, the President’s private secretary.

“I am directed, therefore, to inform you that until an all-inclusive study of costs and other relevant issues is undertaken and forwarded to this office for His Excellency’s consideration, the status quo should remain,” Prof Wanjohi says.

Mr Kibaki’s intervention on behalf of Safaricom and government-owned Telkom Kenya came even as his co-principal, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, jumped into the CCK’s regulatory mandate with a similar directive on behalf of yet another big business – Royal Media Services.

In a letter dated June 14, Mr Odinga wrote to the CCK director-general asking him to withdraw the notice he had published of intention to revoke frequencies that the media house is accused of acquiring irregularly.

“The Prime Minister has directed that you immediately withdraw the notice referred to above and obey the court order referred to above,” Mohamed Isahakia, the permanent secretary in the office of PM, said in a letter to CCK.

“This means you do not at all interfere with any frequencies and licences issued and being used by Royal Media Services Limited as contained in your notice.”

Royal Media Services declined to comment on the matter, saying it is before court. The two interventions are seen as clear examples of illegal executive interference in the running of State agencies to the detriment of the public good.

Mr Kibaki’s directive effectively exposes him as working with big business to the detriment of consumers who have been denied lower calling rates.

Mr Odinga’s intervention also harms the public good by stalling orderly management of frequencies that are a national resource.

The MTR dropped from Sh4.42 in June 2009 to Sh2.21 in July 2010 and was to drop to Sh1.44 in June last year before the President stalled it for one year following intense lobbying by Safaricom and Telkom. Senior CCK managers refused to comment on the letters.  

Industry sources said the President’s latest intervention in the MTR controversy was at the behest of Telkom Kenya, which sought and got State House’s backing.

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