Cwele to have oversight of Infraco

The department of public enterprises will no longer have oversight of state-owned telecommunications infrastructure company Broadband Infraco. By Duncan McLeod.

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Broadband Infraco will no longer report into the department of public enterprises. Instead, the department of telecommunications and postal services (formerly known as the department of communications) will have oversight responsibility.

It’s not known if the changes in reporting have been implemented yet and what changes may be required to legislation to facilitate the transfer, but a source close to the process says it’s effectively a done deal.

A spokesman for telecoms minister Siyabongwa Cwele could not immediately be reached for comment.

Broadband Infraco spokesman Sammy Mafu said the company is not able to comment before an official statement from government about any changes in reporting structures is released.

The loss-making state-owned telecoms infrastructure company, the brainchild of former public enterprises minister Alec Erwin, has reported into public enterprises since its founding about eight years ago. By placing it under the telecoms department, it will report into the same department and ministry as Telkom, in which the state still has a 40% direct stake.

Talk of possible collaboration or even a merger between Broadband Infraco and Telkom (and possibly state-owned broadcasting signal distributor Sentech) have been bandied about for several years as government considers options for rolling out broadband infrastructure in underserviced parts of South Africa. Both Telkom and Broadband Infraco have expressed their desire to manage a roll-out of infrastructure to these areas on behalf of government.

The latest developments appear to form part of a broader shake-up in government’s communications technology portfolio. A well-placed source says government is backtracking on plans to have communications regulator Icasa report to the newly created department of communications, which is led by minister Faith Muthambi. Instead, it will report into Cwele and his department. Even the State IT Agency, currently under public service and administration, could soon report into telecoms.

In June, Cwele’s spokesman, Siya Qoza, told TechCentral that government was “working on finalising the proclamation that will clarify the roles of all the entities that are affected by the reconfiguration of departments”. He declined to comment further.

Last week, President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj, said in a statement that departments affected by the “reconfiguration of certain government departments” had been “directed to study the legal and administrative implications of the policy announcements made by the president, as per procedure”.

“This process will culminate in a proclamation that will, among others, establish the new departments, transfer the administration of certain legislation from one minister to another, or transfer certain functions, agencies or institutions from one department to another.”

Maharaj said that once the process was concluded, Zuma would make a “final pronouncement on the new government system”.

Zuma came under fire when he split the department of communications in two. Critics have described the new department of communications, which houses the SABC and government communications service GCIS, among other entities, as a propaganda arm for government.  — © 2014 NewsCentral Media

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