ICASA in danger of total shutdown as minister withholds funding

ICASA has instructed its attorneys to launch legal action to force the Department of Communications (DoC) to release funding allocated to it by Parliament.

Keabetswe Modimoeng, the acting chairperson of ICASA, told media about the situation at an emergency press briefing at the regulator’s headquarters in Centurion on Monday.

The briefing was called after the City Press published an article which said that ICASA and the Minister of Communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, are “at war”.

Modimoeng confirmed that there was a dispute and said ICASA has not received any of its annual allocation of funding, around R400 million.

“ICASA’s first tranche payment has been unlawfully withheld,” Modimoeng said, adding that tranches are transferred within the first month of each quarter.

He said that the situation was dire and if ICASA does not receive its funding it will not be able to meet its financial commitments. This includes paying service providers and salaries.

“It is tantamount to a complete shutdown of the regulator,” Modimoeng said.

Modimoeng said that on average ICASA collects R1.3 billion per year in licence fees. All the money it collects is contributed to the national fiscus, said Modimoeng. ICASA does not keep anything.

Fight over 5G spectrum

He stated that the dispute between the minister and ICASA is over wording in the regulator’s annual performance plan (APP).

Specifically, the Ministry wants ICASA “to hold back a bit” on 5G.

“To be honest, we’re not entirely sure what the exact complaint is, as we have not had formal engagements with the minister,” Modimoeng said.

He said ICASA communicated with the minister on 26 April, however, asking to at least get an indication by 11:00 today as to when its funds will be released.

“We have not received any undertaking from the DoC.”

As a result, ICASA will approach the High Court in Pretoria with an urgent application to compel the DoC to release its funds.

“No person or organ of state may interfere with Chapter 9 institutions, including ICASA. Such institutions are independent and only subject to the constitution and the law,” said Modimoeng. He added that ICASA and institutions like it should function free from political interference.

ICASA said that as their application is urgent, it expects it will be heard in a week or less.

Now read: South Africa’s 5G battle – Winners and losers

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ICASA in danger of total shutdown as minister withholds funding