The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (Usaasa) said in a statement on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 that its good name has been dragged through the mud by people who want to use it for their own selfish and narrow interests.
This follows the recent Presidential authorisation of a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe into the affairs of Usaasa after numerous allegations of misconduct at the agency.
Later that year, the DA also questioned Usaasa’s spending of around R100,000, or R1,408 per person, on a Christmas party.
In 2013, Usaasa responded to an accusation of corruption by announcing that its board had instructed that an independent audit and investigation into the allegations be conducted.
Usaasa also said at the time that it had placed two individuals on suspension “as a precautionary measure”.
The latest allegations against Usaasa include maladministration in relation to the recruitment process that led to the appointment of Usaasa’s chief executive officer in 2013.
SIU is also to investigation allegations of irregularities in the allocation of R500-million to a service provider for the construction and expansion of a network for Emalahleni Local Municipality.
Someone wants control of USAF money – Usaasa
In its most recent statement, Usaasa said that it is “grappling with the possibility that all these smoke screen investigations are directly linked to the DTT project and the transparent fund distribution processes put in place by USAASA.”
The DTT project being referred to is South Africa’s migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT).
During the migration, South African TV viewers that receive their signal using a normal antenna will have to buy a decoder-like set-top box (STB) which converts the digital signal into something existing TVs can display.
Government has decided to subsidise 70% of the cost of an STB for the 5 million poorest households in South Africa.
Based on the latest information from the national budget recently released by Treasury, the Universal Service and Access Fund (USAF) contains at least R1.39-billion that has been earmarked for the DTT STB subsidy.
South Africa’s network operators are also all required to pay money into USAF as part of their operating license agreements.
This money is meant to be used to fund initiatives to enable access to information and communication technology to all South Africans.
The implication from Usaasa is that this money which has been squirrelled away in USAF for public benefit is what others are after.
“It is beginning to be clear to the Board that there are those who are hell-bent at creating ‘cloud of controversy over USAASA’ with a hope that DTT and other projects such as broadband will be taken away from the Agency to other structures,” Usaasa’s statement said.
Usaasa said it welcomes the SIU probe and called on the investigating team to do its work quickly and publicly report its findings without delay.
“After the report, the Agency and its leadership will reserve the right to seek recourse from individuals and organisations that are peddling these malicious rumours,” Usaasa said.